Dion's random ramblings

Friday, November 30, 2007

How to make a living of other people's mistakes! The Faebook scam!

This is so sleazy (and clever) that it must have taken a genius to figure it out!

Here's a brilliant way to make a fairly good income off other people's mistakes - it is the 'faebook' scam. Yup, that is facebook without the C!

This is one weird scam. Someone registered the domain Faebook.com (Facebook without a C) and redirected it, using an iframe, to Amazon - of course, with his/her own Amazon referrals. It?s the good old tactics of using misspelled domain names for profit, but it?s uncommon to see such an obvious misspelling of a site as big as Faebook used like this.

It's not Amazon's doing - it?s hard to believe that they?d try to profit from Facebook's popularity in such a sleazy way. You can see who the domain Faebook.com belongs to with the help of whois:

Domain Name: FAEBOOK.COM
Registrant [1003228]:
Moniker Privacy Services
20 SW 27th Ave.
Suite 201
Pompano Beach

Amazon?s own records look different:

Amazon.com, Inc
Legal Dept, P.O. Box 81226
Seattle, WA 98108-1226
Domain Name: AMAZON.COM

What?s weird about this example is this: why on Earth would one use a misspelled Facebook domain name to link to Amazon? Are there really people out there who want to go to Facebook, misspell the name, land at an Amazon looking page and then go: oh, let's buy the new Harry Potter book? I'd say that a generic AdSense farm would work better, but then again, I?m not an expert on scams. Alexa's numbers don?t put the site in the top 100.000, but Compete begs to differ, and I really wonder how much the owner is making out of this. Perhaps I?m in the wrong business (:.

Thanks to Otis for the tip

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Avusa (formerly Johnic Communications) is making a blunder of epic proportions!

For the first time in South African history a blogger is being prosecuted BY A MEDIA COMPANY for speaking his mind...

There goes freedom of speech! Today at 3pm Avusa (formerly Johnic Communications, the Black Empowerment company that owns many newspapers such as the Sunday Times and the Sowetan) will be having a disciplinary hearing for Llewellyn Kriel. The cause of this hearing is an honest and realistic piece that Kriel wrote about the state of morale at Avusa and its newspapers.

Click here to read the article. I am not suprised by its contents - I know MANY other corporations in South Africa where the feelings and sentiments are pretty much the same as those expressed by Kriel....

Over zealous affirmative action, loss of skills, unequal remuneration, and blatant discrimination are the order of the day in many institutions.

However, what makes this so shocking is that this is a Media company that has gone to court to protect the right to Freedom of Speech for its paper news sites. Yet, when someone speaks the truth about them on the internet they want to shut him down....

I small a rat here... Shame on you Avusa.

I for one will not be buying either the Sunday Times or the Sowetan if this is your approach to freedom of speech.

You can read a detailed report on this matter here.

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The negative side of religion... British school teacher jailed in Sudan for making an ignorant mistake...

Us religious folks tend to take our religion pretty seriously (note that I am pointing the finger at myself here!) I have often gently asked someone not to blaspheme, or to exercise a little restraint in their criticism of my faith (Christianity) or another faith (e.g., Islam)... It is all a matter of respect.

However, there are times when we take it all just too seriously! Read this story about a British school teacher in Sudan who has been jailed for her ignorance. In some societies (like that in the UK) religious education is not normative, and so persons are not raised either with an understanding of religious sensitivities, or with the knowledge to avoid upsetting overly sensitive religious individuals or cultures... Perhaps she should have known better. However, the Sudanese government should CERTAINLY know better than to JAIL someone for an issues such as this? Surely they could have found a more progressive and caring way to set this woman right?

The way of submission and peace (which is what Islam means, by the way) has just done the opposite of what it stands for! Just goes to show, one should never allow one's government to claim an exclusive religious allegiance (to any faith), they will simply represent it very poorly!

Here's the story:

Reason's Hit and Run blog reports that a British schoolteacher is will be tried for "blasphemy, inciting hatred, and insulting Islam" because she named a teddy bear Muhammad.

Picture 8-22Contrary to reassurances from the Sudanese embassy in London, Gillian Gibbons, the British teacher in Khartoum who did not realize naming a teddy bear Muhammad was verboten, has been charged with blasphemy, inciting hatred, and insulting Islam. The possible penalties include a fine, 40 lashes, and six months in jail. The government promises a "swift and fair trial," saying, "she will be brought in front of a judge, and now she must prove her innocence"?which gives you a sense of how the court system works in Sudan. Gibbons' lawyer says the defense will be straightforward: She had "absolutely no intention to insult religion, and for blasphemy to take place there must be an insult."
Link | Time Online article

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Bizarre! The launch of 'satlav', just SMS to find the nearest toilet!

This is a bizarre, although very practical, news story from London...

The UK's first SMS service for finding the nearest toilet launched in London today. Just text the word "toilet" and SatLav, run by the Westminster City Council, points you the nearest public toilet. Someone should build a recommendation system on top of that and name it George, after the Seinfeld character who knew the location of every good bathroom in Manhattan. From the Associated Press:
The system, which covers 40 public toilets, pinpoints the caller's position by measuring the strength of the phone signal. The texts cost about 50 cents, and most of Westminster's toilets are free.

The council said it hopes the service will stop people from urinating in alleyways, saying some 10,000 gallons of urine ends up in Westminster streets each year.

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Pimp my ride African style... AKA Put a HUGE stereo system onto my bicycle [Pic]!

Those of us who live in South Africa will be quite familiar with those wonderfully decorated 'dik wiel' (Afrikaans for 'thick wheels') bicycles that are pimped to the max! You don't see as many as you used to!

But, this picture from the US brought a smile to my face!

Check out the stereo on this guy's bike! Heck he even has a fold out DVD player on there!

Now that's the kind of bike you want to see someone logging over the 'ou Kaapse Weg' in an Argus cycle race!

In today's NYT, a feature (with lots of great photos) about folks who build elaborate stereo soundsystems for their bicycles. It's not a new phenomenon, but it's neat to see it treated with such formal examination. Link, and pix here shot for the Times by Tyler Hicks. (thanks, Mark Hurst)

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Do you remember the excitement of the last day of school? I long for it!

Do you remember how excited you used to get on the last day of the school year.  Today is my daughter's last day of school for 2007 (next year she goes to grade 3).  She is so excited about the holiday, and all of the fun and relaxation, that lies ahead!  I rejoice with her and for her.

It got me thinking...  When last was I that excited about leave or time off?  It seems that the longer one is alive the more the pressure mounts.  I know that I will get some leave in a few weeks time.  However, like all other years I will spend my leave anticipating all that needs to take place at the start of the year.  I shall also probably spend some of my leave working (preaching, writing, with one or two meetings etc.)  Somehow leave doesn't seem quite as carefree as those school days.
However, please don't get me wrong.  I am not complaining about the tasks that lay before me.  There have been times in my life where I have not had any reason to get up, no tasks to look forward to, or plan for.  That didn't feel good either.
For me there must be a good balance of relaxation and purposeful activity.  I suppose in some ways it is not activity (or lack thereof) that creates a child's excitement for the holidays, it is innocence...  
I pray for innocence as I face the tasks of this day - today I shall spend the day in appeal hearings for students who have appealed the findings of their results....  Innocence Lord, please, Innocence!

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Top 10 WORST tech products rated by C-Net... Can you guess what number 1 is?

I always enjoy looking at these lists to see what the best (and worst) products are...

This is a C-Net list for the ten worst tech products. Can you guess what Number 1 is!? Yup, it's Windows Vista!!! Or should that be Windoze Vi$ta....

Click here to read the whole story.

PS. I hope that you're not running Vista... Although, I don't know many Vista boxes that actually allow their owners to connect to the internet! Ha ha! If you are running, OR HAVE TO RUN, Vista... then all I can say is sorry for you!

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Sunday school for atheists. What do you think?

One of the common misconceptions among persons without an active and lived faith community is that religion is ONLY about teaching people values and morals.

Of course morals and values are an important part of most faiths. However, Christianity would certainly say that worship, and a deepened relationship with God and the world that God loves is a central part of the Gospel (values and moral conduct are an aid in doing this effectively).

However, here's an interesting story about people in America who do not believe in God, but wanted something akin to a Christian Sunday school so that their children can learn good values and morals. I think it is a good idea (at least from that perspective, i.e., morals and values), however, I don't think that it replicates or matches what a good Sunday school should be (i.e., helping young people to learn to live with a sense of God's sacred, gracious, and loving presence in all of creation, and learning to honour and worship that God not only through moral acts but through spiritual discipline)....

That's what I think... What are your thoughts?

Sunday School for Atheists

"When you have kids," says Julie Willey, a design engineer, "you start to notice that your co-workers or friends have church groups to help teach their kids values and to be able to lean on." So every week, Willey, who was raised Buddhist and says she has never believed in God, and her husband pack their four kids into their blue minivan and head to the Humanist Community Center in Palo Alto, Calif., for atheist Sunday school.

An estimated 14% of Americans profess to have no religion, and among 18-to-25-year-olds, the proportion rises to 20%, according to the Institute for Humanist Studies. The lives of these young people would be much easier, adult nonbelievers say, if they learned at an early age how to respond to the God-fearing majority in the U.S. "It?s important for kids not to look weird," says Peter Bishop, who leads the preteen class at the Humanist center in Palo Alto. Others say the weekly instruction supports their position that it?s O.K. to not believe in God and gives them a place to reinforce the morals and values they want their children to have.

It's all in the details... Did you notice that the guy who teaches the 'humanist pre-teen' class is called Peter Bishop!? Ha ha! Quite and irony.

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Follow up on Mark Driscoll and Rob Bell - the picture becomes clearer, perhaps Mark needs to learn a little graceful restraint?

Yesterday I published the story about Mark Driscoll referring to Rob Bell as a contemporary heretic...

A reader of the blog commented on that post with two very helpful comments (thanks Ted, I have not republished your comment on the front page since I haven't been able to reach you to ask if that's OK), but if anyone would like to read Ted's comment please click on the link above.

In essence Ted's comment pointed out two things:

1. Who the heck is Phil Driscoll (I had mistakenly called Mark Driscoll Phil - thanks for pointing that out)?

2. He encouraged me to check up on Mark Driscoll, who himself seems to be a remarkable individual who is seeking to bring the Gospel of Christ to a new generation in a novel and powerful way.

I looked up a few things on Mark Driscoll. On the whole I am impressed with what I found. However, I did also find that Mark Driscoll seems to have a capacity for overstating opinions - it is not necessarily that what he says is entirely wrong, it certainly is not entirely untrue, however, it is overstated and often insensitive (I shall include an example below).

So, my beef is not with a powerful young preacher who is clearly doing incredible work - rather it is to encourage persons with the influence that he has to make clear and critical comment, yet to do so with restraint and love. It would seem to me that there is a fine line that one can cross in being critical of another without recognizing something in them that is positive, a gift from God, and even a creation in the image of God.

How do I know this? Well, as you will see from MANY posts on this blog I am guilty of doing the same myself.

Like many young men I hold to my convictions with passion, yet sometimes that passion lacks grace...

Here's my comment to Ted (if you get a chance please follow the links and do a bit of reading yourself. I don't want to press people to agree with me, and where I am wrong please set me straight!):

Hi Ted,

Thanks for the correction! Where the heck did I get Phil from? I've fixed it up.

I have had a look at their website (for anyone else who would like to check it out, it is well worth the effort - here is the link)

A brief view of his wikipedia entry shows that he is certainly unique. Although it would seem that this is not the first time that he has caused sensation with a comment?

It would certainly seem to me that he needs to cultivate some restraint and care in his caricatures of persons or groups that differ from his perspective... I quote "article on The Emergent Church, Mark Driscoll was quoted as saying, "There is a strong drift toward the hard theological left. Some emergent types [want] to recast Jesus as a limp-wrist hippie in a dress with a lot of product in His hair, who drank decaf and made pithy Zen statements about life while shopping for the perfect pair of shoes. In Revelation, Jesus is a pride fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is a guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up. I fear some are becoming more cultural than Christian, and without a big Jesus who has authority and hates sin as revealed in the Bible, we will have less and less Christians, and more and more confused, spiritually self-righteous blogger critics of Christianity." [the emphasis is mine]

This guy sounds like a fairly typical patriarchal, testosterone driven, stereotypical "America is King and we'll fight for that right" kind of guy...

I could be very wrong, so please set me straight if I am. However, he does seem a little brash and unrestrained in his criticism of others...

I recognise this in him, because I am often the same.

Ted, thanks for the comment, and also for helping me to find out a bit more about this incident and Mark Driscoll.

Regards from a COLD (summer?) in South Africa.
What do others think? As I considered this to and fro I thought to myself "how does a Mark Driscoll's personal opinion get such coverage?" When, however, I look at the Mars Hill website it strikes me that they must have a fairly formidable press team (or at least access to the Christian press), so someone must have pushed the story out there.

Perhaps it may have been better for this prominent person to contact his equally prominent and Christian brother and first discuss things before entering into the fray?

I don't know what the answer is, but I do hope that this does not damage either of these Christian people or their effective and necessary ministries to bring the Gospel of Christ to bear on a 'fast changing and broken' world...

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Rob Bell - Is it heresy on tour? (SOLD OUT!)

This is such a sad situation. Mark Driscoll has accused Rob Bell (of the Nooma DVD series) of heresy.... Here's the full story:

Heresy on Tour?

Popular pastor/author Rob Bell's controversial message: God loves you.

Since late September blogs have been buzzing about Mark Driscoll's remark at the Convergent Conference labeling Rob Bell a heretic. Bell's broad popularity (due primarily to his books, NOOMA videos, and podcasts) make Driscoll's accusation all the more serious. Out of Ur has stayed out of the fray - until now. Rob Bell was in Raleigh, North Carolina last week as part of a 22 city tour. Leadership correspondent Chad Hall was there to report on the event.

When the babysitter arrived the night before Thanksgiving, she asked of our plans for the evening. Last week it was a concert, and three weeks before that we were headed to dinner and a movie. Tonight, my wife and I were going to.... I stumbled for words to describe Rob Bell's latest tour. I could tell by her eyes that she stopped caring about thirty seconds before I stopped trying to describe the event.

Bell's "the gods aren?t angry" tour packed about two thousand souls into Raleigh's Memorial Auditorium for what wound up being a 90 minute sermon.

Bell is a popular writer, speaker and pastor, and I found it easy to see why he's so popular. As a friend commented after the event, "The dude has some mad communication skills." Wearing an all black outfit (save a bright white belt) that could have placed him as a member of Green Day, Bell presented an insane amount of information in a style that held my attention and quickened my spirit.

In a nutshell, Bell talked about how humans - since the earliest cavewoman and caveman - try to appease the forces that bring or withhold life. These human attempts led to formation of god concepts and religious practices, which grew ever more sacrificial and eventually led people to harm self and sacrifice children in bold attempts to assuage anxiety about the gods' opinions of us. Like some sort of Ken Burns without a camera, Bell incorporated tons of tidbits and insights from history, cultural anthropology, theology, sociology and literature to weave a compelling story of religiosity that?s led to the anxiety-riddled human condition wherein we wonder, "Have I done enough?"

Into this system where humans guessed at what the gods want and then trying to give it, God spoke to Abram. Now the deity did the initiating. And the word from God was for Abram to forsake his father?s household: which Bell equated with forsaking the old system of trying to appease the gods. Rather than trying to bless the gods, Abram's role was to be blessed by God. This was big revelation number one.

According to Bell, big revelation number two came in Leviticus. He said that this strange and seemingly backward third book of the Bible is best understood as a gift from God to help alleviate people?s anxieties. Rather than leave us guessing and grasping for some elusive set of conditions by which God would be pleased, God presented Abram's lineage with an exact recipe for living and sacrificing, thus removing all doubt that God was not angry with them.

Bell said that big revelation number three came in Jesus. The sacrificial system outlined in Leviticus became corrupt and only led to more anxiety than it relieved. So at just the right time, God revealed that he never really needed our sacrifices anyway. Using quite a bit of humor, irony and pure wit, Bell painted a caricature god who is not complete without what people can provide or perform. Using various sayings from Psalms, Micah, Jesus, Paul?s letters and Hebrews, he drew an alternate picture of the divine: a God who is not dependent on what we do, but who freely loves and pours blessing on us.

The problem, according to Bell, is not that God is angry with us, but that we think God is angry with us. Thus, Jesus' purpose wasn?t to change God?s mind about us, but to change our mind about God: to notify us of God?s lack of anger and to free us from the prison of our misconceptions so that we can truly live well. The place of church and religious ritual is to remind us of our standing with God and freedom to live lives of sacrifice and service.

This tour stop still has me thinking. The sense I got from Bell is that the whole problem to be solved is a mental one: people are not aware of the already-true fact that God is not angry with them. I'm wrangling with the notion that what Jesus changed is not God?s opinion of me, but my opinion of God. For some reason, this makes me think of Jesus as a Post-It note from God telling us what has been true rather than making it true. I'm ready to dismiss this as too insignificant, except that Bell convinced me that the alternatives leave us with a small god who needs sacrifice to be appeased.

I'm not ready to canonize Rob Bell, nor am I ready to fire up the Driscollian flame thrower and burn him a heretic. I chalk up my questions and concerns to the fact that no sermon - even a 90-minute one delivered with incredible veracity ? can cover everything.

Chad Hall is an executive coach with SAS Institute Inc. in Cary, NC. He's also the co-author of Coaching for Christian Leaders: A Practical Guide and Vice President of The Columbia Partnership.


Personally, I think Rob Bell is one of the most sensible, level headed, and effective teachers of the Gospel in years... He knows the Bible, he reads and uses it, and his message is responsible and well rounded. The fact that he tries to bring in people whom the traditional Church has excluded (people who look different, think different, and act different to mainstream society) is quite refreshing. I seem to remember the scriptures speaking of someone else who was accused of fraternizing with 'sinners' - perhaps Rob Bell represents more of the mind of Christ than many of his detractors!?

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Facebook won't last - it is already on the way out...

I would be interested to hear how many people share my sentiments about facebook. A few months ago I would check my facebook page daily (sometimes more than once a day). I had a network of friends and family that I would follow. It was manageable.

However, I now only check my facebook account once every few days, sometimes not even every week. The simple reason is that it is a chore to reject all the silly invitations to join groups, attend events (half way across the world), and update applications just to stay in contact with the people I DO want to have contact with.

The reason for all the 'fuzz' and interference in my facebook account is that I accepted too many people that I wasn't sure about, or didn't really know, because I think I am a nice guy. I felt bad not accepting friends who wished to link to me... Now, however, their 'stuff' crowds out what I really wanted it for.

It won't be long and I probably won't use facebook at all - it's just too much hassle. Or, I may just abandon my account and set up a smaller, private, account....

Cory Doctorow predicted that this phenomenon would happen. Moreover, if enough people feel the way that I do then facebook may be heading for a collapse as people leave to find less cluttered ways of relating via the internet.

Here's his article:

My latest Information Week column is "How Your Creepy Ex-Co-Workers Will Kill Facebook" -- in which I explain why Facebook and all the other social networking services live in a boom-and-bust cycle because they get crufted up with people you don't want to add to your friends list, but have to for social reasons.

You'd think that Facebook would be the perfect tool for handling all this. It's not. For every long-lost chum who reaches out to me on Facebook, there's a guy who beat me up on a weekly basis through the whole seventh grade but now wants to be my buddy; or the crazy person who was fun in college but is now kind of sad; or the creepy ex-co-worker who I'd cross the street to avoid but who now wants to know, "Am I your friend?" yes or no, this instant, please.

It's not just Facebook and it's not just me. Every "social networking service" has had this problem and every user I've spoken to has been frustrated by it. I think that's why these services are so volatile: why we're so willing to flee from Friendster and into MySpace's loving arms; from MySpace to Facebook. It's socially awkward to refuse to add someone to your friends list -- but removing someone from your friend-list is practically a declaration of war. The least-awkward way to get back to a friends list with nothing but friends on it is to reboot: create a new identity on a new system and send out some invites (of course, chances are at least one of those invites will go to someone who'll groan and wonder why we're dumb enough to think that we're pals).


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I'm going to be on TV! 'In the name of God' documentary

Last night I was visited at the seminary (here in Pretoria) by Crispin and his crew from Cut2black and the SABC. They are busy filming a documentary on people and faith communities that made a difference in South Africa during the Apartheid Era. It is called 'In the name of God'.

They came across my Oxford Institute paper while they were doing some research and so asked to set up an interview - it was intimidating!

They came and 'scouted' the best location (which happened to be the College Library - so at least I'll look intelligent on TV), then we spent about two hours filming. Crispin had prepared a whole bunch of questions. He, and the producer from the SABC, asked about the history of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa and the history of Methodism that places that strong relationship between social holiness and personal piety. Then we went on to discuss how at different points in the Church's history the Church took social stances that were seen as attempts at Holiness (honouring God, and participating in God's divine will).

In particular they were interested to hear about the ministry of Bishop Paul Verryn (both in Soweto in the 80's and 90's, but also his current ministry among Zimbabwean refugees).

It was intimidating to sit in front of the camera with lights and a whole crew of people (lights, sound, camera operators, administrators) looking on! But, let's hope that the message gets out there and we help to encourage a few more faithful, committed, passionate Jesus followers to match their passion for personal holiness with a passion for social holiness.

I'll let you know when it is going to air.

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Ever wondered where Popeye got his strange looks from!? Here's a picture of the guy who inspired the cartoonists!

I love Popeye... I don't care much for spinach, although he did make we want to eat it. Another thing that I have often wondered about is why he has such small biceps and such large forearms? I guess every sailor needs somewhere to put his Anchor tattoo!

One thing I know for sure is that Anime has nothing on good old Popeye the sailor man!

So, have you ever wondered who inspired the cartoonists of that crazy character? Yes, these are the things that occupy my little mind!


Jacob at Fantagraphics spotted a lovely vintage portrait of, er, the real Popeye. Fantagraphics is now publishing beautiful oversized hardcover anthologies of the entire run of Popeye comic strips. Volume 1, titled "I Yam What I Yam," and Volume 2, titled "Well Blow Me Down!" are currently available.
Link to the full Popeye photo, Link to buy Popeye Vol. 1: "I Yam What I Yam", Link to buy Popeye Vol. 2: "Well Blow Me Down!"
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If books are made from trees, then what can trees be made of? Here's a Christmas tree made from books [Pic]

This has to be my favourite kind of tree - it is made from books!

This "book tree" appears on the IJM photography site -- it's a great, bookish alternative to a Christmas tree bush for this year. Link, Link to IJM site (giant Flash blob with no permalinks) (via Cribcandy)

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

'Left Behind' author breaks the evangelical stereotype according the Brian Mclaren

This interesting post comes from 'God and politics'. It is by Brian Mclaren. I found it quite interesting...

In light of Pat Robertson's and Bob Jones III's recent presidential endorsements - shocking or predictable, depending on your cynicism factor ? and in light of the recent New York Times article on the fragmentation of evangelicalism, I'm sure we'll be seeing a growing number of assessments regarding the status and future of the evangelical Christian community in the U.S. Those interested in the subject shouldn't miss the conversation that's been going on over at the Beliefnet roundtable on evangelicals in power. Beliefnet's Patton Dodd got things rolling, and was joined by writers Hannah Rosin and Jeff Sharlet, Left Behind novelist Jerry Jenkins, sociologist Michael Lindsay, and former Bush aide David Kuo.

All participants agreed on the need for civil and substantive discourse on the relation between faith and public life. Not only did they agree on the need for it, but they practiced it. Stark disagreement didn't give way to name-calling or vilification; civility didn't generate into a surfacey niceness that fogs up disagreement. I can only hope that future conversations on this topic will follow the civil and substantive tone of this one.

I especially appreciated the fresh tone struck by evangelicals David Kuo and Jerry Jenkins. Jenkins, in particular, shatters stereotypes by what he says and how he says it; one can only hope that those who loved his novels will follow his lead when he says things like this:

The true evangelical leaders, to me, are those serving Jesus (for He said that if you feed the hungry, help the poor, etc., doing this "unto the least of these," you're doing it unto Me) behind the scenes. Fortunately, I know many such servants - sadly, or perhaps encouragingly, most of them are young people. My son and his wife (in their early thirties with three young children) have helped started a church in Venice Beach, California, that largely serves minorities and the homeless. Just a few dozen gather Sunday mornings for a joyous celebration, but during the week they are also ministered to in concrete ways. My son and daughter-in-law, despite the fact that he's a movie director and she's a full-time mom, are in the process of adopting another child (and possibly two), believing that this is another way to put their faith into action.

One feels the center of gravity shifting in a statement like this from an evangelical leader like this. I share Jerry's hope when I look at many younger leaders in what is often called "the emerging church." Guided by "true evangelical leaders" like Karen Ward, Shane Claiborne, Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, Rob Bell, Danielle Shroyer, Adam Taylor, Gabriel Salguero, and others, this new generation of Christian adults will not be driving their parents' generation's evangelical Buick. They'll be serving the least of these - planting churches in inner cities, adopting forgotten children, and working for justice.

Brian McLaren (brianmclaren.net) is board chair of Sojourners, and his most recent book is Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope.

Filed Under: Jerry Jenkins,

PS. I agree with what Gus had to say about the term 'evangelical' - I too regard myself as evangelical (i.e., passionately committed to the Gospel of Christ). Some people call my manner of commitment liberal - I guess that's because they may be conservative. I think my commitment to a Gospel of salvation from personal and structural sin, from individual addiction and social enslavement, is the core of the Gospel, not a liberal leftest agenda....

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The REAL ark of the convenant in the Ethiopia? Sounds a bit fishy to me...

I have seen documentaries, and read some reports, of this story in the past. I don't buy it... By the way, did I mention that I bought a one of the nails from the cross when I was in Jerusalem a few years ago - amazingly it only cost me $1!! I also know a few folks in Minnesota who have a pretty nice Ark (which they also claim to be the real thing), oh yeah, and then there's the guy Indiana Jones....

Although, in all seriousness, I could be wrong. The Ark could be in Ethiopia - but then again, so what?

What difference does a 'box' make? Surely God is present everywhere, most importantly to be discovered in a loving relationship with God in community and creation?

Anyway, here's the story:

The fabled Ark of the Covenant may not be in some nondescript crate in a massive US government warehouse but rather in the small Ethiopian town of Aksum where it is guarded by a virgin monk who can never leave the chapel where it sits. And nobody else can see it either. Smithsonian magazine sent Paul Raffaele to investigate. From Smithsonian:
I asked (His Holiness Abuna Paulos, patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church) if the ark in Ethiopia resembles the one described in the Bible: almost four feet long, just over two feet high and wide, surmounted by two winged cherubs facing each other across its heavy lid, forming the "mercy seat," or footstool for the throne of God. Paulos shrugged. "Can you believe that even though I'm head of the Ethiopian church, I'm still forbidden from seeing it?" he said. "The guardian of the ark is the only person on earth who has that peerless honor..."

(We) made our way toward the office of the Neburq-ed, Aksum's high priest, who works out of a tin shed at a seminary close by the ark chapel. As the church administrator in Aksum, he would be able to tell us more about the guardian of the ark.

"We've had the guardian tradition from the beginning," the high priest told us. "He prays constantly by the ark, day and night, burning incense before it and paying tribute to God. Only he can see it; all others are forbidden to lay eyes on it or even go close to it." Over the centuries, a few Western travelers have claimed to have seen it; their descriptions are of tablets like those described in the Book of Exodus. But the Ethiopians say that is inconceivable-?the visitors must have been shown fakes.

Previously on BB:
? DIY Ark of the Covenant Link
? Raiding the Lost Ark Link
UPDATE: BB reader Pawel Szymczykowski points out that the Mythbusters explored this concept a bit on TV. Link And there were other before them too. Link

Monday, November 26, 2007

Hilarious photos of celebreties photoshopped as Star Wars Characters

Are you a science fiction movies!? I have watched all of the Star Wars films (both in their chronological release dates, and in their chronological story lines... They still don't make much sense to me - but I enjoyed them regardless!)

Here, however, is something truly worthwhile! Celebraties photoshopped to appear as Star Wars characters... Follow the link at the end of the post - there are some interesting, and some not quite so interesting, ones...

Today on the Worth1000 photoshopping contest: shopping celebrity faces onto Star Wars characters. Link

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This MUST be the worst Christmas gift idea ever... Something from Microsoft

Could you imagine giving someone one of these 'Microsoft' gifts!? Surely there could be nothing worse than a 'beige' box filled with bloatware that keeps falling over....

From the friendly folks at Microsoft! Why not warm your friend's heart by giving them something from the Microsoft "Office Online Gift Guide 2007." I promise you they won't forget it.

* Traditional calendars for Excel, $7.50

* Time planning and reporting from inside Outlook, $35

* MyFax Internet faxing, 30% off

* 6 must-have tools Excel pros use, $49

* Create and convert PDF forms in Word, $14.50

* Make Flash presentations in PowerPoint

* Buy one get one free: Three dozen Outlook add-ins

* Professional backgrounds for PowerPoint for only $199

* Create and manage projects more effectively with Project Mentor Lite, $29

* Build lists of leads from any Internet source

* Automate your company's document creation, $24

* Make flowcharts a breeze, $19.95

* Import data from Access into Excel easily and quickly

* Gladstone?s Report Wizard for Microsoft Access, $42.50

Microsoft just seems to keep sinking to new levels with each passing day....

Go Mac, or go back (to Linux)....

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Staying positive, working and praying for change - Jacob Zuma's nomination...

Much of my ministry and adult life has been spent working in black South African communities, and living in predominantly black communities. I have had to learn a great deal about the power of collectivism.

It has astonished me how the community has the power to silence dissident voices for the common good. I see it often. Even though many persons feel a sense of disquiet about something they will submit to the view of the majority and not voice their concerns.

Perhaps I still have some further growing to do in this regard. I feel that I cannot keep silent on this one.

I was alarmed to hear on the morning news that Mr Jacob Zuma has won an overwhelming majority of the nomination votes to be the next President of the ANC (the ruling party in Southern Africa). If you are outside of South Africa you may not be up to date who Jacob Zuma is. Among other things he has:

1. Been dismissed as the Deputy President of South Africa.
2. Was implicated in a sex scandal where he had unprotected sex with an HIV Positive woman (while heading up the South African campaign for moral regeneration).
3. Is at the center of the 'arms' fiasco, having clearly shown dubious moral and ethical principles in procuring arms contracts, awarding tenders, and taking bribes.

It concerns me that we live in a country where a person who has a track record like this would be considered for high office! Surely we require someone with greater integrity and moral standing than this?

Moreover, there are some further human rights concerns looming if this man is to be the next president of the ruling part (which is only a few small steps from the presidency):

1. He has vowed to re-instate the death penalty.
2. He has made some infamatory and debasing remarks about persons who have a a same sex orientation.

I worry... Is this the begining of the end?

Please forgive me for my pessimism! I desperately want to believe that our nation has the capacity for success. This begins with making some tough and informed choices! We need outstanding leadership, not leaders who are fraught with controversy and scandal.

I shall be praying that my attitude changes. I shall also be praying that we have enough sense to do what is courageous and right.

God bless Africa
Guard her children
Guide her leaders
Give her peace.

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Back from Cape Town... the week ahead... I need prayer (and LEGO)

We had a fantastic time in Cape Town!
The wedding was amazing!
We love being with our friends.
Gus and Heather, so sorry we didn't
get to see you guys... We ran out of
time... You know how it is...

It was wonderful to be in the Cape
again. We visited with friends, saw another
friend who has just fallen ill (once a
pastor, always a pastor). We
checked on our house, and just remmembered
how much we miss everyone and
everything in Somerset West!!!

It must be one of the most amazing
places on the planet!!! Each time we
have to leave we wish we could stay!

But, now we've come off then mountain top
tomorrow I face meetings, difficult
issues, and some challenging situations.

I'm sure many of you know the feeling
I got off the flight, switched on my phone
and heard that a student was in trouble, that
one of our College properties had been burgled,
a CCMA case against the Education Unit
was awarded against us... It kind of
makes me dread the week!

But, this is home - and I love it!
For the sake of Christ, and Christ's
Kingdom, and for the transformation of
the world - here I am!

A Stormers supporter back in Bluebull

Stephen and Nadene, it was such a blessing
to share your day with you (and Janet, I
said a little prayer for your familly wedding

My friends will tell you that I am
a people person, and so it was amazing
to be with people - first among those
were Megie, Courtney and Liam (I seldom
get to spend a WHOLE weekend with them,
so this was such a treat)..

Well friends please pray for me,
and for all that lies ahead this week.
I would be pleased to do the same for
you if you let me know what, and who,
to pray for.

But for now, I miss the Cape, and
am content in my ministry here in

PS. the sermon went well... I'll
post it tomorrow some time. Simply think
LEGO and marriage...

Friday, November 23, 2007

Off to Cape Town!

Megie, Courtney, Liam and I are on
our way to Cape Town (well Somerset West)
for the wedding of our friends Nadene and

The Power family are close friends of some years.
So, we are very blessed to be able to share this
special day with them.

I have prepared a VERY unique and special
sermon to share with them... Once it is all over
I'll post it here.

So, I may post a little less frequently for the next
three days...

Now, we shall brave the traffic from Pretoria to
the airport. When I passed there earlier this
morning the highway was standing still!!!!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Much love and blessing to Nadene and Stephen.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Weird picture of the day - a kitten with two faces!

I know kittens are cute, but this is just plain weird! A kitten with two faces!

Lil' Bit is a darling two-faced kitten. He lives in Arizona. From The Telegraph:

LilbitkittenVets believe the cat, which has two mouths, two noses and four eyes, may have two brains, as one face can go to sleep while the other remains awake and it can blink independently on each one.

What are the 10 most popular pages on Wikipedia? But look at the strange listings for 'Conservapedia'!

There are not too many surprises here.... Nonetheless, this is an interesting list! But boy, take a look at the 'conservapedia' listings, that sure is strange!

[UPDATE: The Conservapedia Top 10 list is probably the result of click bots skewing the results. See Seth Finkelstein's blog entry and the comments below.]

Wikipedia is "The Free Encyclopedia." What's on the mind of Wikipedia its readers? Here are the top ten most viewed pages on Wikipedia:

  1. Main Page [30,090,900]
  2. Wiki [904,800]
  3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows [413,400]
  4. Naruto [401,400]
  5. Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock [396,000]
  6. United States [330,000]
  7. Wikipedia [329,400]
  8. Deaths in 2007 [321,300]
  9. Heroes (TV series) [307,500]
  10. Transformers (film) [303,600]

Conservapedia is "The Trustworthy Encyclopedia." What's on the mind of its readers? Here are the top ten most viewed pages on Conservapedia:

  1. Main Page? [1,906,729]
  2. Homosexuality? [1,572,713]
  3. Homosexuality and Hepatitis? [517,086]
  4. Homosexuality and Promiscuity? [420,687]
  5. Gay Bowel Syndrome? [389,052]
  6. Homosexuality and Parasites? [388,123]
  7. Homosexuality and Domestic Violence? [365,888]
  8. Homosexuality and Gonorrhea? [331,553]
  9. Homosexuality and Mental Health? [291,179]
  10. Homosexuality and Syphilis? [265,322

(Via Why, That's Delightful!)

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Death by Powerpoint..... and how to fight it!*

* A brilliant resource to create BRILLIANT Powerpoint presentations!

Here it is.... This is an incredible presentation that will help you to create better powerpoint presentations!

Let me know what you thought.... I thought it was fantastic! It was clear, helpful, and I could even follow the gist of it without notes or some boring person droning on and on, and on, about nothing in particular!

Don't you hate those crazy EULA's at the end of corporate emails

I have quite a few friends who work for large companies. I always chuckle when I read the end of their emails where the "disclaimer' is appended (very often that text is more than what is actually IN the email. I have often wondered what the REAL TERM cost is in bandwidth to the company for those disclaimers.

Well, here's a guy who said hogwash! Here's what he has to say about EULA's (ps a EULA is an End User License Agreement)....

Javier sez, "Russell Coker has published his Conditions of Sending Email, which are his rules for accessing his SMTP. If you send him an email, he has preemptively disclaimed any unilaterally made-up claims in your .sig:"
The conditions of sending mail to my server are now as follows:

1. A signature will in no way restrict my use of your message. You sent the message to me because you want me to read it (it was not mis-sent, my mail server does not accept mis-addressed mail). I will keep the message as long as I like either deliberately or because I forgot to delete it.

2. I reserve the right to publish any email that is threatening (including any threats of legal action). I don't like being threatened and part of my defence is to publish such threats at an appropriate time. Anyone who is considering the possibility of threatening me should consider when their threat may re-appear.

3. I reserve the right to publish any email that is abusive/profane, is a confession of criminal or unethical behaviour, or is evidence that the sender is a liar or insane.

4. I reserve the right to forward all amusing email to my friends for their enjoyment.

My mail server will now provide the URL of this page to everyone who connects at the first stage of the SMTP protocol. When a mail server continues the connection that indicates acceptance of these conditions.

Link (Thanks, Javier!)
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How the times have changed.... Early episodes of Sesame Street are now marked 'for adults only'

This is truly a bizarre insight into the changes that have taken place in society. Of course not all change is bad. When you read the report below you will come to realise that some changes needed to be introduced to protect children from sexual predators... I'm sure they were around in the 1970's, but perhaps they were not quite as calous and bold...

Here's the story:

Virginia Heffernan has an article in the New York Times about the first seasons of Sesame Street being released on DVD. Interestingly, the DVDs come with a warning: ?These early ?Sesame Street? episodes are intended for grown-ups, and may not suit the needs of today?s preschool child.?

Nothing in the children?s entertainment of today, candy-colored animation hopped up on computer tricks, can prepare young or old for this frightening glimpse of simpler times. Back then ? as on the very first episode, which aired on PBS Nov. 10, 1969 ? a pretty, lonely girl like Sally might find herself befriended by an older male stranger who held her hand and took her home. Granted, Gordon just wanted Sally to meet his wife and have some milk and cookies, but . . . well, he could have wanted anything. As it was, he fed her milk and cookies. The milk looks dangerously whole.

Live-action cows also charge the 1969 screen ? cows eating common grass, not grain improved with hormones. Cows are milked by plain old farmers, who use their unsanitary hands and fill one bucket at a time. Elsewhere, two brothers risk concussion while whaling on each other with allergenic feather pillows. Overweight layabouts, lacking touch-screen iPods and headphones, jockey for airtime with their deafening transistor radios. And one of those radios plays a late-?60s news report ? something about a ?senior American official? and ?two billion in credit over the next five years? ? that conjures a bleak economic climate, with war debt and stagflation in the offing.

The old ?Sesame Street? is not for the faint of heart, and certainly not for softies born since 1998, when the chipper ?Elmo?s World? started.

Above, an example of old school Sesame Street. Link

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Victims of Congo's Rape epidemic - how you can help.

I have been following this story on various news sources. We have two Congolese refugees as part of our community, and so we also get first hand news from their families and friends. This is such a sad and violent issue.

Soldiers in the DRC have been using rape as a weapon to subdue and destroy communities in the Congo. Their acts of abuse and violence have multiple effects. First, they rob young women of their lives since the rape victims are often infected with HIV. Second, they rob them of their childhood since the young women often fall pregnant and spend the rest of their young lives raising the children of their abusers. I cannot imagine the torture of such a life.

Here's more on that story.
Earlier in the year the New York Times ran a story entitled - "Rape Epidemic Raises Trauma of Congo War." Susannah Breslin tipped Boing Boing to that story, and she provides an update.

The [NYT] piece painted a horrifying portrait of mass rapes in war-torn Eastern Congo. According to the UN, 27,000 women were raped in the South Kivu Province in 2006, and ?[t]he sexual violence in Congo is the worst in the world." These rapes are particularly brutal: "Many have been so sadistically attacked from the inside out, butchered by bayonets and assaulted with chunks of wood, that their reproductive and digestive systems are beyond repair," wrote Jeffrey Gettleman, the East Africa bureau chief of the Times. "'We don?t know why these rapes are happening, but one thing is clear,' said Dr. Mukwege, who works in South Kivu Province, the epicenter of Congo?s rape epidemic. 'They are done to destroy women.'"

(...) In the [Boing Boing] comments, a reader asked: "Does anyone know of anyway people could help?" So, I wrote an email to Gettleman, asking if there was something people could do. Gettleman suggested I get in touch with Erika Beckman, Project Manager of the Female Victims of Sexual Violence project at the Panzi Hospital. I've posted her email in full. Let others know how they can help stop the Congo rape epidemic by posting about it on your blog.

Information on how to make financial donations and provide other forms of support are detailed in the full text of Susannah's post: Link.

Previously on BB:
Africa -- rape epidemic in Congo war worsens

Reposted from Boingboing.

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Feeling discouraged... How I deal with it.

I like words (I don't mind Paris Hilton, but I prefer Paul Teutul... Don't worry it will all make sense once you read this post).

Like the little picture I posted yesterday, words can be understood from many different ways. They are rich and symbolic.

A word carries some inherent meaning (for example the English word 'dog' could make one think of an animal that barks). However, the hearer or speaker of the word also adds their own meaning (often called an inferred meaning) to it (for example when Paris Hilton says dog she thinks of one of those tiny little doggies (hers is called 'Tinekerbell' that you can put in your handbag. Whereas Paul Tuetel thinks of a dog he thinks of his dog 'Gus' - a pitbull of sorts).

The word for today is discouraged.


1 demoralized, demoralised, discouraged, disheartened

made less hopeful or enthusiastic; "desperate demoralized people looking for work"; "felt discouraged by the magnitude of the problem"; "the disheartened instructor tried vainly to arouse their interest"

2 discouraged

lacking in resolution; "the accident left others discouraged about going there"

The word is made up of two elements, courage, and the condition of being without courage. To be dis- couraged is to have your courage removed or dis-located. Of course the antonym of dis-couraged is to be en-couraged (to have courage placed within you).

I was shaken by Pete Grassow's post 'Shame on you'. At first when I read it I was dis-couraged. But then I realised that this is no a post of discouragement - in fact it is a courageous post (a post of en-couragement). It reflects a reality that is filled with hope, it is the hope that says there is a better way for humanity, shame on those who do not choose it. In fact, whilst it may sound discouraged, it is filled (from my perspective) with a sentiment of hope for what things could be like.

But, words can be powerful that way...

Sometimes I loose my courage to live on the side of hope. Sometimes I feel that darkness will overcome the light (like when I read posts such as those about Bishop Tutu below). But, that is NOT the truth!

The truth is that this is God's universe. I am God's servant, and all of us (even those whom I don't particularly understand or like) are loved by this courageous God. There is no greater hope than that!!

So, I pray for courage - the kind of courage from which I cannot be separated. I pray for the courage to do what is right, even when others loose hope and give up around me. I need it!

I remind myself that everyone lacks courage to do what is required from time to time. That is why I need to live in commuity with the God of courage and the people who courageously choose to live for that God. They 'en-courage' me. So, it is about keeping the courage in, and not letting too much of it run out...

That's how I deal with it... What do you do?

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A conservative Christian's, unChristian, reaction to Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

He was hailed as a mighty prophet when he spoke for the dispossessed. Now, however, those who are facing his critical insight have turned against him with the kind of ferocity that is uncharacteristic of those who are followers of the Prince of Peace.

As many of you know Archbishop Desmond Tutu has been outspoken about his affirmation and acceptance of Christians who have a same sex orientation. This last week has been a particularly difficult time for the Bishop since many conservative Christians have taken great offense to some of what he has had to say.

It does not surprise me that many have turned against him. All of us like to point fingers at others when 'they are wrong'... We will take the moral high ground and easily show them their error. However, when we ourselves are the subject of scrutiny we often become quite defensive. Soon our prophets become our enemies, and those who so clearly spoke on behalf of God are labeled as misguided and delusional... I can write easily of this because sadly I have done it, and just as sadly I have often been treated this way...

Here is the scathing comment that Dr Michael L Ford lashed at Bishop Tutu:

God Is a Righteous God

Dr. Michael L. Ford

19 November 2007

For quite a long time I have been suspicious Archbishop Desmond Tutu was serving a different God than the one I serve. The reason I have thought this is because of the multitude of times he has made pronouncements and taken positions contrary to those consistent with what one should expect from a man who is representative of and has a calling from the Most High. As a matter of fact my file of his deviations from the way of truth has now grown quite thick.

The world of course applauds him, which should be a warning to any Bible reader (Luke 6:26) for this is the way of the world with false prophets. But who can fail to remember Tutu?s 1999 appearance on the Larry King show in front of the National Cathedral in Washington D.C.? It was there he endorsed Mormonism as being Christian. He said he was there?to celebrate the coming of God into a world where God is saying, "I love you...I believe in you." It was plain he was observing a different reason for God coming into the world than I was, not the love part, but He came to redeem sinful men who need to believe in God not have God believe in them.

Now Archbishop Tutu has said, "If God, as they say, is homophobic I wouldn't worship that God." Well I have news for Tutu. God has no fear of homosexuals or any other man including him, and He is not concerned about Tutu?s attitude toward His position on sodomy. It is not Tutu?s prerogative to pass judgment on God but God will ultimately exercise His option to pass judgment on him. God is not constrained to have his approval but he should rather be concerned with God?s approval of himself.

Archbishop Tutu is not the only man possessing credentials from some denomination who has forgotten that Jesus Christ is LORD, not they themselves. If a person does not submit to Jesus Lordship willingly He is not their Savior even though at the Great White Throne Judgment they will bow and confess His Lordship before Him as The Righteous Judge. At that time I suspect a good many men wearing collars or robes will go into eternal condemnation because they were religious but not saved.
And then there is this press release from the conservative Anglican publication 'Anglican Mainstream':

Disappointed by Desmond Tutu

Anglican Mainstream SA Press Release: Disappointed by Desmond Tutu

November 20th, 2007

Anglican Mainstream Southern Africa wishes to put on record its disappointment with recent statements reportedly made by the retired Archbishop of Cape Town, Desmond Tutu. The statements indicates a failure to understand the nature of the crisis, which faces the Anglican Communion, a crisis that is inhibiting our ability to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to all.

The present crisis in the Anglican Church is about the centrality of the Bible to what members of our church believe (our doctrine) and how we live out that belief in our daily lives (our moral standards). Sexuality is merely the presenting issue. In fact the decisions by Anglicans in the USA to distance themselves from the official province of that country has to do with the conscious vote at the convention of 2003 not to affirm basic Anglican Articles of religion. One of which states: ?However, it is not lawful for the church to order anything contrary to God?s written Word.? This Resolution B001 was defeated 84 to 66 at the 2003 convention. In addition its liturgical practice, sacramental discipline and doctrine of God have also departed from Anglican teaching and formularies.

Many faithful people feel that they can no longer continue living and worshipping in a church that has departed in such a major way from the historic faith. The question of Bishop Robinson could really only have come up once that motion was defeated.

Archbishop Tutu claims that the Church has appeared homophobic. That claim cannot be substantiated. As Anglicans we believe that the God we worship loves every human being, that that according to the scripture, he makes the same demands of all those who love him: that we should ?keep my commandments? Jn 14:15. In Anglican Mainstream SA we seek to encourage ministry that welcomes all, while upholding the revealed truth of scripture in a ?grace filled? way.

The particular issue around Gene Robinson hinges on what the Bible teaches as the standards to be demanded of leaders in the church. These include holiness of life, and either celibacy or faithfulness in marriage between husband and one wife.

Finally, it saddens us that the questions of racial genetics and sexual orientation are being equated. Such an equation is at best spurious and indeed offensive. The origins and development of homosexuality are complex and our concern is with holiness of life and therefore behaviour, whatever its origins. Bp Bethlehem Nopece of Port Elizabeth sates: ? I am offended at the equating of being born black and being born homosexual, there is no scientific evidence for the genetic origin of homosexuality at this time.?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Revd Gavin Mitchell

Convenor Anglican Mainstream Southern Africa.

Both posts are kindly reposted from ContactOnline (Fr David MacGregor)

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Have you ever taken a photo where no photography is allowed?

I have visited quite a few places in the world where photography is strictly prohibited (in fact most Cathedrals and Churches in Europe apply that rule). But, of course, there are many other places where they would rather have you buy the 'official postcard' of the monument, statue, or shrine, than take your own photograph. In almost every place where I have seen a 'no photography allowed' sign I have seen people trying to take photographs! And now, with the advent of Cell phone Cameras it is even worse!

Well, here's a site dedicated to pictures taken in places that prohibit photography.

A 'psychological' optical illussion - the power of the mind to creat (or distort) what we see [Picture]

This is an amazing example of the power of the human mind to create meaning from our subconscious and our memories.

I shall be using this optical illusion when I next teach my first year students to consider how powerful their own tacit perceptions, memories, and socialization can be in warping their reading of Biblical texts (hence the need for good study tools and responsible exegesis if one is going to use the scriptures to teach, preach, offer advice and counsel to others).

Amazingly this discovery was first made by a Missionary in Malawi in the 1880's

The influence of culture and environment can have an effect on our visual perception. This theory was first explored by Robert Laws, a Scottish missionary working in Malawi, Africa, during the late 1800's. Take a look at the picture below. What you see will largely depend on where you live in the world. After you have examined the picture, scroll down for a more detailed explanation. So What Did You See?

What is above the woman's head? When scientists showed a similar sketch to people from East Africa, nearly all the participants in the experiment said she was balancing a box or metal can on her head. In a culture containing few angular visual cues, the family is seen sitting under a tree. Westerners, on the other hand, are accustomed to the corners and boxlike shapes of architecture. They are more likely to place the family indoors and to interpret the rectangle above the woman's head as a window through which shrubbery can be seen.

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What does your brain process faster? Reality or your memories?

My fascination with the human brain is never exhausted... In fact I hope to prove that I actually have one of these [a brain that is] one day! Perhaps that will be the topic of another doctorate ;-0 ha ha!

However, here's a very interesting post from boingboing.net:

Memories processed 7 times faster than reality.

Scientists have show that when rats sleep, they play back memories as much as seven times faster than the events really transpired. The research, conducted at the University of Arizona, may shed light on how memories are processed. From a University of Arizona press release:

Memory stores patterns of activity in modular form in the brain's cortex. Different modules in the cortex process different kinds of information - sounds, sights, tastes, smells, etc. The cortex sends these networks of activity to a region called the hippocampus. The hippocampus then creates and assigns a tag, a kind of temporary bar code, that is unique to every memory and sends that signal back to the cortex.

Each module in the cortex uses the tag to retrieve its own part of the activity. A memory of having lunch, for example, would involve a number of modules, each of which might record where the diner sat, what was served, the noise level in the restaurant or the financial transaction to pay for the meal.

But while an actual dining experience might have taken up an hour of actual time, replaying the memory of it would only take 8 to 10 minutes. The reason, (professor Bruce) McNaughton said, is that the speed of the consolidation process isn't constrained by the real world physical laws that regulate activity in time and space.

The brain uses this biological trick because there is no way for all of its neurons to connect with and interact with every other neuron. It is still an expensive task for the hippocampus to make all of those connections. The retrieval tags the hippocampus generates are only temporary until the cortex can carry a given memory on its own.

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Are you a World of Warcraft addict!? This cartoon may scare you out of it! [Pic]

I have never been much of a gamer myself. In fact, even though I own a PSP I can't say that I have every actually sat down to play a game! However, I know a few folks who have spent days (and nights) trying to get just that next level of World of Warcraft (WoW) done....

I was going to repost the cartoon on my blog, but then when I followed the link I realised that it was very rude. So sorry for that! I won't post that kind of stuff....

Here's the cartoon from boingboing.net. Click here for the Link to the original post.

Please note, this is not polite! As the 13th century heresy would have said pious auribus offensiva (this is 'offensive to pious eyes')....

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Some tips to help you BE more creative, and DO so much more in life...

I thought this was a very helpful article! I am an energetic person who takes a lot of risks, and often get asked by people where the creativity (or lack of it, comes from). When I read this article it resonated with a lot what I do. Perhaps it will be helpful to you? Can anyone add any other ideas?

Have you ever looked at super creative or innovative people, and felt they are special beings blessed with gifts? Have you felt that you are not as fortunate? I used to feel this way. I have since learned that creativity is more about psychology than intellect, and there are no secrets to being creative. Actually, there is no such thing as "being more creative", you are already a creative being.

I'm sure we can all relate to moments when we felt stuck trying to tap into our own creativity. Did you know that this block is merely your mind at work? Your mind is creating all sorts of assumptions, self-imposed constraints and self-limiting inhibitions. I have found that we can remove these assumptions just by being in the moment; start doing, and stop thinking.

Here are seven habits found in highly innovative and creative people that I?ve organized and summarized from Scott Berkun's "the myths of innovation".

1. Persistence - Innovation involves more than just great ideas. We need faith, hard work and a laser sharp focus for the end result to keep persisting for our vision in the face of roadblocks. We tend to see the end result of a creative idea in awe, but what we don't see are the actions, hard work and persistence behind the scene to make the vision a reality.

"Invention is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration",
-Thomas A. Edison

2. Remove Self-Limiting Inhibitions - Under the spell of inhibition, we feel limited and stuck. We need to free ourselves from these mind-created constraints by removing assumptions and restrictions. This is what we refer to when we say "think outside the box". Encourage ourselves to be open to new ideas and solutions without setting limiting beliefs. Remember, innovation is more about psychology than intellect.

3. Take Risks, Make Mistakes - I believe that part of the reason why we create self-imposed inhibition is due to our fear of failure. Expect that some ideas will fail in the process of learning. Build prototypes often, test them out on people, gather feedback, and make incremental changes. Rather than treating the mistakes as failures, think of them as experiments. "Experiment is the expected failure to deliberately learn something." (Scott Berkun). Instead of punishing yourself for the failures, accept them, then take your newfound knowledge and put it towards finding the best solution. Live up to your goal of producing the best result, but understand you might hit roadblocks along the way.

"I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won?t work."
- Thomas A. Edison

4. Escape - Our environment can and does effect how we feel. The more relaxed and calm we are internally, the more receptive we are to tap into our flowing creativity. This is why ideas sometimes come to us in the shower or while we're alone. Each of us have different triggers to access our creative energy. I get into the 'creative zone' from sitting at my dining table, with a warm cup of chai, and my noise-canceling headphones. Many great thinkers go on long walks to help them solve problems. Experiment and find what works for you.

5. Writing Things Down - Many innovators and creative people keep a journal to jot down ideas and thoughts. Some keep a sketch book, scrap book, post-it notes, loose paper. They all have a method to capture their thoughts, to think on paper, to drop their inhibitions and start the creative process. Leonardo Da Vinci's famous notebook was purchased by Bill Gates for $30.8 Million dollars.

6. Find Patterns & Create Combinations - Ideas come from other ideas. Did you know that Edison wasn't the first one who came up with the invention of the light bulb? He was the first to build a workable carbon filament inside a glass bulb, that made light bulbs last longer. You can increase your exposure to new ideas, look for patterns and see how you can combine ideas to improve upon existing solutions.

7. Curiosity - Many innovators are just curious people who are inquisitive, and like to solve problems. Practice seeing things differently. For example, When seeing the solution to a problem, ask yourself, "What are some alternative ways to doing this?". Ask a lot of questions and challenge the norms or existing methods.

Here are some techniques you can apply to cultivate creativity:

  • Keep a Journal - Practice writing every thought, idea, and inspiration down. Practice, brainstorming and thinking on paper.
  • Solve the Opposite Problem - Scott talked about this technique. The idea is to invent and brainstorm by solving the opposite problem that you are trying to solve. So, for example, if you are trying to create "The best laptop design", then start with ideas to create "The worst laptop design". For each idea you come up with, flip it. For example, if "heavy and clunky" is one idea for "The worst laptop design", then flipping that might give me "light and sleek" which can be used in "The best laptop design".
    This technique works especially well when brainstorming in a group.The technique sounds so silly that people will become playful when answering. Humor brings down inhibition and encourages people to say things out aloud. People feel less insecure and more open.
  • Find A Creative Environment - Find a relaxing or inspiring environment that triggers your creativity. Try different spots until you find some that really bring out the best in you. I alternate between my living room (which I have carefully decorated) and a couple of local coffee shops.
  • Do something fun - If you?re stuck on something, shift your thoughts by going to do something fun and completely different. Come back to it with a fresh mind.
  • Partnering - Find creative partnerships with another. New ideas can surface as a result of two forces that would not have been arrived by a single person. Brainstorm together.
  • 'Commit to Failure' - "Commit yourself to taking enough risks that you will fail some of the time. If you?re not failing, we're not doing something sufficiently difficult or creative." -Scott Berkun
  • Talk to Someone About It - I have found that when I try to articulate a particular problem to someone, that I'll somehow articulate my solution, as well. When explaining my situation, I'm not expecting them to solve my problem, but rather act as a 'bouncing board' for ideas.
  • **Plan for Roadblocks -Commit to efforts to overcome potential setbacks. It's worthwhile to identify and have a plan for non-creative items that may inhibit creative thinking. Scott talked about the most common roadblocks people face: Loss of motivation, ran out of money, unable to convince key person.
Reposted from Thinksimplenow.com

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When you get this image on facebook then you know things are going REALLY bad!!

You know that things are NOT GOING YOUR WAY when you get this image while trying to sign up for your Facebook account!

You'll have to click on the image to enlarge it... See what the security check words say... Hilarious...

FACEBOOK IS NOT THE ANSWER PEOPLE!!! Reach out and touch someone today.

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Finding the strength to do what I like least... Advice for people pleasers.

So, are there any other 'people pleasers' out there? You know the kind - you say yes to things you really should say no to...

This morning as I got out of bed at 5am because I knew that the 80km drive from Pretoria to Turffontein in Johannesburg was going to be difficult on a Monday morning - it took over two hours , and that was actually quite a pleasant surprise.

And, while I was in the traffic I was thinking "here I am battling the traffic so that I can spend a day moderating hundreds of exam scripts"... I am not a fan of marking. I like people, not paper. Put me in front of a group of students, but don't put me in a room with their exams! AAAAAaaaaarrrrggghhhh.... It was not a pleasant thought, battling the traffic to go and do something that I don't really enjoy doing.

The great encouragement is that I only have to do this for two days. I know many people who do this 5 days a week for 48 weeks of the year (not marking [that's grading for the Americans]... I actually know some people who LIKE marking!) No, I mean there are people who battle the traffic each and every day to go to jobs that rob them of life...

I thought about you, and it struck me again, life is not meant to be that way! But, let's be honest, there are very few people that have the privilege to choose from a variety of different job options. Most of us do what we do because we need to pay the rent, put kids through school, pay our cars, and put food on the table.

So, I walked into a room FULL of scripts, they were PILED HIGH... My heart sank. I said a little prayer, something like "Lord, help a brother here... I have two days of this. Why did I agree to help with this?"

Then these verses came to mind:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. [Col 3:23-24].

I remember reading in Bob Buford's great book, 'Half time', that if we want to bring blessing to God, and find blessing for ourselves, we don't necessarily need to do things that please us (that's what a 'brat' does - in ethics we call is hedonism, the pursuit of pleasure). Not everything that is worthwhile is pleasurable (although that is generally an easy way to find momentary happiness).

BUT, constant pleasure is NOT the reality of daily life. There must be something deeper, something more significant, something more real that makes life, and the tasks of life, more meaningful.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said that what made life wortwhile was learning to live for others. So, as I picked up each of the scripts to look through it. As I picked up each markers report to read it. As I placed my pen on the paper to write, I thought about the people, and the God of those people...

I said a little prayer to our God and remembered that these people are still working towards their FIRST degree, while I have the joy of having completed a few. Many of them cannot afford to pay their fees, they work a job and come home to study at night after a hard day, they do it because of the God that we love, and the people that our God loves... So, I said to "Dion, you're not doing this because you enjoy it. You're doing it because you can do it, others need it done, and you're God's servant in this place. So, do it for God, and these people who God loves."

And so, the day passed, and it was not a frustrating day of grading papers, counting marks, and considering 'assessment tools', rather it was a day of serving God and God's people.

I don't know if it will work for you. I sure hope that there is something that you can glean from this experience that will make your work an act of service, a moment of praise; something you can do for God and those whom God loves.

If you need a prayer please feel free to drop me a line. I'll be glad to offer a prayer for you. I ask you to do the same for me.

Tomorrow I'll awake and make my way back through the traffic in service of our God and God's people.

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Wohoo! Hitting the big time - my little prayer book is listed on MobiPocket!

The internet is truly amazing! I signed up my little prayer book on Amazon.com, and it has been selling like hotcakes (not exactly retirement money, since I listed it without considering what it would cost me to post it to the Amazon warehouse in the USA... So, I make a loss of a few Rand on each paper copy that sells).

However, it is just been listed on Mobipocket and it is selling wonderfully well there too! The fantastic thing about Mobipocket is that once I have uploaded the completed file I don't need to do a thing! I simply check my account from time to time to see how many copies have been sold and then start worrying about declaring the income (so far only a few hundred Rand, but still!) to the Taxman... Also, remember, that all profits go to the Zimbabwe relief!

I will add my other two books as soon as the paper copies are available and I have posted out the pre-orders to those of you who have ordered copies.

Here's a picture of my little book on Mobipocket.com.

By the way, Mobipocket is a great way to read books (other than mine), I have bought quite a few books to read on my Nokia, Palm, and PocketPC phones (I even have the client for my Sony Vaio Windows XP PC). In the past I have bought Brian Mclaren's book 'A generous orthodoxy', a few Michael Moore books, and even Alexander Mcall Smith.

Simply download the client and then download a few 'trial' copies of ebooks from the site. Test it for yourself to see if it works.

Blessings, and thanks for sharing in my excitement! I'm off to preach at Bryanston Methodist Church.

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94.7 cycle tour! Blessings, excuses and commitments!

Today there will be about 40 000 cyclists on the streets of Johannesburg. They are all taking part in the premier cycling tour of Gauteng, the Pick n' Pay 94.7.

I have never ridden this one myself. Although, I have done 9 Cape Argus cycle tours. Riding in a race like this is a truly magnificent experience. Although I confess it is never a race for me, rather it is like 'facebook on wheels' - a chance to chat, check out the scenery and build some lasting memories.

Well, blessings to all those who are riding already! I know Steve Mulder is doing the race (Alison, his sister, joined us for some tea for Liam's birthday), Wayne Taylor the minister of Westview Methodist Church in Centurion is also riding (I know that because I am about to leave to conduct his two morning services while he stretches a few muscles), and my cousin John - who is a beast of a man (he fears no road, no hill, and no challenge! In fact when hills go to sleep at night they put their beds on bricks for fear of him!)

I wish I was there with you guys!

Why am I not doing it? Well, in the 4 years that we have lived in Gauteng I have told myself that I am too busy to train for a ride like this... It's a sorry excuse, I know! I would love to do one more Argus to get a yellow number, and also do the 94.7 next year!

So, here's a commitment - I am going to get back on my bike (that would be the bicycle, not the Vespa or 'the beast') from Monday, and next year I hope to ride the 94.7. Anyone willing to join me?

OK, off to Church I go - have a blessed day!

PS. If you've ridden the race today (or any other time) drop me a line to let me know how it went for you!

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Some steps to follow if you're wanting to do a research Masters or Doctoral degree in South Africa.

There are many reasons why people wish to do senior degrees in South Africa. Foremost among them are that we have one of the highest standards of Graduate education in the world, whilst our prices for registration are among the lowest in the world.

We follow the European / British system in most Southern African Universities. That means that most South African students would have at least two degrees before registering for a Masters degree (a Bachelors degree within their field - unlike the US Bachelors degrees, South Africa degrees, like those at Oxford and Cambridge, are already with a field (e.g, Bachelor of Theology, or Bachelor of Commerce, or Bachelor of Arts, or Bachelor of Science). After completing a Bachelors degree (normally 3 or 4 years) one will go on to do your first degree that involves some measure of independent research - an Honours degree within your field (again this is different from a Degree with Honours received in the US. An honours degree is an independent degree, normally taking a year to complete, and it allows direct access to a research Masters degree. Once again, this degree is subject based).

So, if you wish to study at a South African University and do a Masters degree you will need at least a 4 year undergraduate degree, or a Bachelors degree and an Honours degree.

So, you've arrived at the point where you are ready to start independent research (writing a Thesis, or Dissertation, as the case may be). Here are a few suggestions for persons wishing to start this process (these thoughts stem from a few emails that I have written for students over the last few years, but particularly from a note I wrote for a friend who is considering doing a Masters Degree in Theology):

1. A common question: Can I work out my research area and write my research proposal before registering officially at a University? In theory this is possible - one can start reading, researching and working towards your Masters degree before you register. However, in reality it is essential to work with a chosen supervisor. The reason he or she works with you is to help you learn the skill, and gather necessary content, for your work (much of which you will need guidance in since you are only setting out in self directed research at that level).

I am yet to hear of a student who works out their topic, finds a supervisor, and does not have to spend 6 months to a year reading additional work, reworking their proposal, and then only starting to write. My suggestion would be that you try to find someone to work alongside (e.g., a friend of someone whom you know who already has a doctorate, and preferably someone who has experience of supervising Masters and Doctoral students) who can at least point you in the right direction, help you to formulate your thoughts and narrow your research topic. But, if you choose to start your work on your own it is likely that when you register there will be some need for change, flexibility and negotiation, on both your research topic and your content. A Masters or Doctoral is always a joint effort between the student and their subject matter expert. HOWEVER, you must at least have some idea of what you want to study (e.g., Which books of the Bible are most commonly used in student sermons in the Methodist church of Southern Africa and what this tells us about the theology of Methodist Student ministers). Once you have that broad area it is best to contact a supervisor and start working out the nuts and bolts...

2. A very good book to help you succeed in your Masters and Doctoral studies: There is a wonderful book out there that I suggest to all M and D students I supervise and work with. It is called: ?How to succeed in your Master?s and Doctoral Studies?. Mouton, J. Van Schaik Publishers. Cape Town, 2000. ISBN062702484. This is an invaluable resource! You should be able to get a copy at most University libraries, I have even heard of it being in some public libraries - however, I would suggest that if you can afford to, buy yourself a copy. An M is sure to lead to a D! In that case you will use it again.

3. How decide on a research topic or area? With regard to your research area it is essential that you try to do a few things. First, make sure you have a topic that is achievable. Second, make sure that there is enough information out there to conduct your research. Third, be sure that no one else has already done the research you wish to do.

This is the reason why one does a research proposal. There are basically 3 steps to preparing for your research proposal (which will need to be approved both by your Supervisor and the Higher Degrees Committee):

  • Work out exactly what you wish to research (it has to be achievable, narrow enough to be covered, and capable of being written up within the scope of your project and the time limits set for your degree (most Masters degrees have a maximum limit of 3 years and PhD's 5 y ears). Your topic must also be something that is scholarly and not yet done by other scholars. A common mistake among students when they start out is making their topic too large or wide! The image that I use to explain the difference between this level of research, and what one does in your undergraduate degree, is that your research should not be like an open cast mine (shallow and wide), rather it should be like a shaft mine (deep and narrow). The reason for this is that in order to award a Masters degree one must prove that one has MASTERED all of the literature, issues, discussions, and research, in that area. So if your topic is too wide you will never be able to read all the books, interview all the people, understand all the issues, trace the arguments, and then present them in a scholarly report. For example, students often suggest a topic like "The use of Wesley's hymns in the Church" doing research on ALL churches in the world, and ALL of Wesley's hymns is just impossible! So, you either need to narrow your demographic (i.e., their use among black clergy in rural areas), or set a clear boundaries for your research (e.g., most often by introducing things such as dates (between 1980 and 1985), geography (within Methodist Churches in the Johannesburg east circuit), or population groups (women's organisations in urban Methodist churches in Gauteng). Doing this makes the research and the reporting on the research possible).

  • Once you have your clearly defined research area, and research question, you need to make sure no-one else has done already covered that research topic (search the internet, go to a University Library, ask the Subject librarian, e.g., in Theology, to search the ATLA databases for words around your topic, get as many of the articles, chapters, and books on this subject and make sure it is worthwhile researching, try to find others who may have done similar research and speak with them). This will also help you to start compiling your reading list and bibliography for your research proposal. You will need to supply at least a basic understanding of the seminal arguments, scholars, and texts in that area. Moreover it will also help you to clearly formulate what you aim to cover and how you'll do it (i.e., will you interview persons, will you send out questionnaires, where will you get your statistics from, how will you interpret them? Then how will you relate what you find to the area of your research. For example if your study is in Theology, how will you relate what you've discovered to Christian doctrine, or Church practice, or passages from scripture, or what has happened in Church history).

  • Once you have all this data (a suggested topic, a defined research area, an idea of the literature and issues in that area, a proposal of how you will conduct your research, who will supervise your work) then you write up your research proposal according the guidelines of the University at which you intend to register (each University has slightly different requirements).

If I can offer you some advice to persons wishing to do senior degrees in South Africa, I would suggest that you include an African element in your research. I suggest this for a few reasons:

  • It is less likely that a topic with an African slant would have been covered by someone else (e.g., Prophecy in Methodist Churches in the XXXX Circuit).
  • It is important that we ask questions that are relevant to our context (this is both a responsibility to scholarship and a responsibility of our faith). Since the African voice has not yet gained extensive prominence in world scholarship we have a responsibility to make discoveries about our context and the richness that it can offer to all of humanity. I firmly believe that the African voice needs to be heard, we must contribute towards the international debate on important issues. Moreover, as a Christian if you are going to spend a great deal of time and energy doing creative and novel research, do it as an act of stewardship and service (not just to gain a degree). So, add something of value that has not yet been done. Moreover, when you do that you will find that your Thesis can quite easily be turned into a book (these things all open doors for ministry and further scholarship), or at least be published in some journal articles.

So, these are a few suggestions - I hope they offer some help and encouragement to persons wishing to engage in research degrees here in South Africa. There are few things quite as rewarding as contributing to scholarship and knowledge in areas that have not yet been charted.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any suggestions or queries.

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Weird religion and the Academy - Flying Spaghetti Monster to star at American Academy of Religion.

The American Academy of religion is the most prestigious academic gathering for theologians across the globe. Today boingboing.net reposted that the Flying Spaghetti Monster will be making an appearance!

If you don't know who the Flying Spaghetti monster is, you're not up to date on mythology and religious eccentricity on the internet...

Here's the story (this is one conference I would love to attend - this is where culture, faith, and technology colide):

The Flying Spaghetti Monster will be discussed at the American Academy of Religion's annual meeting
200711161051 The title: "Evolutionary Controversy and a Side of Pasta: The Flying Spaghetti Monster and the Subversive Function of Religious Parody."

"For a lot of people they're just sort of fun responses to religion, or fun responses to organized religion. But I think it raises real questions about how people approach religion in their lives," said Samuel Snyder, one of the three Florida graduate students who will give talks at the meeting next Monday along with Alyssa Beall of Syracuse University.

The presenters' titles seem almost a parody themselves of academic jargon. Snyder will speak about "Holy Pasta and Authentic Sauce: The Flying Spaghetti Monster's Messy Implications for Theorizing Religion," while Gavin Van Horn's presentation is titled "Noodling around with Religion: Carnival Play, Monstrous Humor, and the Noodly Master."

Using a framework developed by literary critic Mikhail Bakhtin, Van Horn promises in his abstract to explore how, "in a carnivalesque fashion, the Flying Spaghetti Monster elevates the low (the bodily, the material, the inorganic) to bring down the high (the sacred, the religiously dogmatic, the culturally authoritative)."

Link (Thanks, Rick!)

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Pictures of the BEST book covers for 2007... I could do with a few tips for my two new books! [Pic]

The Book Design Review Blog has picked its top book covers for 2007 -- there are some superb covers here -- I'm especially fond of these two, for Unmarketable: Brandalism, Copyfighting, Mocketing, and the Erosion of Integrity, and The Worst Years of Your Life. Got favorites of your own? Link 'em in the comments. Link (via Kottke)
Repost from boingboing.net

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Prayers filled with gossip, and Fox News Porn.

There is a certain kind of prayer (or prayer request) that makes me mad! It is the kind of prayer where a person actually doesn't want to pray for the other person, or persons, rather they simply want to gossip! Have you ever heard prayers of that nature? I sure have! "Oh Lord, please help sister Mary, she is drinking again today, and she hasn't pad the rent, but she could afford to buy those new shoes I saw her wearing when she was dodging work on Tuesday afternoon...."

These prayers are quite easy to spot, since their focuss is all wrong! The focus is not on care, concern, or God's help, but rather on the juicy details of someone else's life...

Well, Fox News has just been busted for something similar. Here's the story:

Fox News Porn is a collection of raunchy outtakes from the Fox "News" Network, where hypocritical prigs like Bill O'Reilly revel in prurience while condemning it. This condemnation is largely indistinguishable from a celebration -- as when Sean Hannity visits a brothel and asks snotty, explicit questions of the workers there while his camera lovingly pans across their bare flesh.

The site is the creation of filmmaker Robert Greenwald, whose documentary Outfoxed is a masterful takedown of the Murdoch empire. Fox News Porn created a brief but spectacular net-storm when an overzealous moderator for Digg took the site off the Digg front page and threatened to suspend Greenwald's account for violating Digg's Terms of Service. However, a day later, Digg management reversed the decision. In founder Kevin Rose's words, "Our fault. Digg on." Link (Thanks, Kevin and Pete!)

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A slow day... will post later!

Yup, it's Liam the great's 1st birthday party today
plus I had to be up at 4am to make it for the elders
meeting at Bryanston at 6am, and then had a wedding
in Alexandra Township at 7.30am....

So, I'll post some thoughts a little later!

Thanks for looking in!



Friday, November 16, 2007

First there was 'carckberry' for the blackberry addicts - now the iPhone takes internet addiction to a NEW HIGH!! [Pic]

iPhone lurv....

Yep, that's what it is! I have personally (forgive me) lusted after one of these devices for some time now. They are available in SA, but only the 'black market' as 'cracked' devices... So, my desire my be kept in check for a few months more! For now, my Nokia E90 does the trick...

However, when I saw this cartoon from my friend Andre, I couldn't help but laugh! At first there were reports of people becoming addicted to their Blackberry cell phones - a condition known as 'crackberry', since many have found them to be as addictive a Crack! (I have personally felt the pain and withdrawal of being with constant email and internet access - it's not a pretty sight! But then again, neither is walking into a wall, or another person, when you're typing a 20 page reply using your thumbs while walking through the mall!)

Dilbert always seems to hit the SWEET SPOT!

Anyone out there willing to 'donate' an iPhone to a student of the mind to see how one combats this addiction? Contact me offsite... I'll gladly help you out!

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All praise and thanks to God! Our miracle son turns 1!

Liam and Courtney (still asleep) opening his Birthday presents.

Friends, please join us in praising and thanking God for the miracle and blessing of Liam's first birthday!

He is perfect and healthy in every way - we cannot begin to express how thankful we are for the miracle of his life! Please will you join us in thanking God for his health and development? He has come so far in the last year, from 1kg at birth to a healthy 10kg's. He still has some way to go, but there is nothing that love, care and a bit of occupational therapy can't sort out!

Here's the story of his birth and here are some moments from this first year of his life. And here are a few posts specifically about Liam the Great!

As you will know Megan and I fast and pray each Friday for children and premature babies, and their families of course, so it is wonderfully fitting that Liam's first birthday falls on Friday the 16th of November 2007. Today we will remember friends that we have made on this journey - some who have experienced the joy of a frail child growing strong, and those who have had to endure the sorrow and pain of loosing their precious little one.

Once again, we are so grateful to all our family and friends we have been so caring, patient, and supportive over the last year. It is a great blessing to be loved!

So, if you would like to leave little Liam a message please do so in the comments, or email it to me directly (as some have done already! Thank you!) We'll print and keep them for him to read in years to come.

A very happy dad!

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

The death of a nation... 1 in 4 will die of AIDS by 2020.

The SABC 3 News reported this evening that an Labour conference in Tshwane predicted today that 1 in 4 labourers will die of HIV AIDS by 2020 in South Africa.

The fear is not only that so many persons will die, but that the South African ecnonomy will not be capable of sustaining this loss of skill. It will not be possible to train persons quickly enough to fill the positions and posts left by those who die.

What on earth is the world coming to!?

The thing that just blows my mind is that tonight someone, somewhere in the world, will go to sleep in his or her luxury home, paid for by the starving and dying persons who scrape every possible cent that they can to buy Anti Retroviral Treatments...

That anyone should profit from the suffering of another is ungodly.... Surely we share blame in this regard. If there was enough political, social, and popular will to end this tyranny it would end... Sadly, however, we all seem to want to participate in the same economy - if we have a chance to be rich we'll do what it takes to make it happen...

Maybe it's just me who is greedy... I pray that I won't be!

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You can't be SERIOUS!? Manto tells cartoonist Zapiro to pay her royalties for her on the cover of his new book [Pic]...

This image is quite harsh... But then so are the actions of the health minister. However, I thought this was actually a lovely little story, despite the fact that I feel my blood pressure rising and I have no garlic, ginger, or any other miracle cure to decrease my hypertension!

Zapiro launched his latest book at a 'Fruit and Veg city'! I think that is just wonderful! In jest (YES, it was all just a joke, I believe) the infamous minister of health in South Africa Manto Tshabalala Msimang sent word to Zapiro that he owes her royalties for putting her on the cover of his book!

Ha ha! I think that is hilarious! Well done Manto! At least you've shown that you DO have a sense of humour! Or, at least that's what I am lead to believe.... Perhaps she really DOES want some money!? Who knows.... However, I am sure to be sued for this post....

Here's the original story:

"Zapiro, you owe me money. You put me on the cover of your book!"

Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, quoted at the launch of Zapiro's latest volume, at a branch of Fruit and Veg City. This suggests our minister of health does indeed have a sense of humour. While she was not present at the launch, her axed deputy and ex-handbag Noziviwe Madlala-Routledge was there to give a speech.

Of course there is the VERY serious matter of dealing with the incompetence and arrogance of the minister of health....

So, if you're interested in getting involved why not head over to the SACK MANTO website and sign up for the petition, arm yourself with a few facts, and make a difference....

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You go sisters! Anger at Anti Bush sentiment expressed by American National Woman's Bridge team [Pic]

Wow, you've got to agree, these woman have courage! This story tells of a group of radical political activists who have plotted to topple to totalitarian Bush regime in the USA.....

Or maybe NOT! It's a story about a few American Women who went to Shanghai to play in a Bridge tournament (that's in CHINA people - not exactly lovers of American imperialism and George W Bush!). During the awards ceremony they held up a little sign that said 'We did not vote for Bush'...

Now, what's so offensive about that!? Surely it is just a statement of fact - you either voted for Bush (which many Americans seemed to do, but do not wish to admit), or you didn't... Heck their sign doesn't even make any claims about whether it was a good thing or not to have NOT voted for Bush.... They could have been showing REMORSE that they didn't vote for Bush!!!! (Not likely by the smiles on their faces, but still, it's a possibility). Paranoia can do strange things to a national psyche... Ask us, South Africans know all about it!

However, it seems that facts, and free speech, are no longer valued in the land of the free and the brave. The story follows:

In the genteel world of bridge, disputes are usually handled quietly and rarely involve issues of national policy. But in a fight reminiscent of the brouhaha over an anti-Bush statement by Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks in 2003, a team of women who represented the United States at the world bridge championships in Shanghai last month is facing sanctions, including a yearlong ban from competition, for a spur-of-the-moment protest.

At issue is a crudely lettered sign, scribbled on the back of a menu, that was held up at an awards dinner and read, "We did not vote for Bush."

By e-mail, angry bridge players have accused the women of ?treason? and "sedition." Read more...

I say, more power to you!

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Virtual reality spills into the REAL world - Virtual theft gets a teenager arrested [Pic]

It's starting the happen! Remember the movie Virtuosity (1995)? In the movie a virtual character takes on human form (as a result of advancements in nano-technology that allow an emulation of a human body to be created from Carbon particles in glass). The character goes around killing and wreaking havoc.

Well, it is happening in real life! No, there's no 'virtual' crazy guy roaming the streets killing people, but more and more frequently virtual crimes are starting have REAL WORLD consequences. [caption for the image to the right 'Hey, where's my stuff!?']

You see there is a difference between a REAL crime committed in cyberspace (e.g., hacking into a machine in order to steal data or change information), and a VIRTUAL crime committed in cyberspace (i.e., emulating a crime that isn't actuall taking place).

However, this bizarre story blurs those boundaries.... You see, the VIRTUAL furniture that was stolen was bought on the social networking site using REAL money...

Here's the story, tell me what you think:

A Dutch teenager has been arrested for allegedly stealing virtual furniture from "rooms" in Habbo Hotel, a 3D social networking website.

The 17-year-old is accused of stealing 4,000 euros (£2,840) worth of virtual furniture, bought with real money.

Five 15-year-olds have also been questioned by police, who were contacted by the website?s owners.

The six teenagers are suspected of moving the stolen furniture into their own Habbo rooms.

BBC NEWS | Technology | ?Virtual theft? leads to arrest ? Can't this sort of thing be resolved by virtual police?

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Everything must change - a magnificent quote about authentic Christianity!

I am currently reading through Brian Mclaren's book "Everything must change". I still believe that Brian Mclaren will be one of the most significant Christian thinkers of our time. In particular I would encourage all Christians who are eager to grow and learn to read "A generous orthodoxy" - that will probably be my book of the year (other than my two books of course)!

Here's a wonderful quote from Mclaren's latest book:

The couple of hundred thousand people who have read my previous books seem to find in them some hope and resonance with things they've already been thinking and feeling, including a suspicion that the religious status quo is broken and a desire to translate their faith into a way of life that makes a positive difference in the world. They share my belief that the versions of Christianity we inherited are largely flattened, watered down, tamed... offering us a ticket to heaven after death, but not challenging us to address the issues that threaten life on earth. Together we have begun to seek a fresh understanding of what Christianity is for, what a church can be and do, and most exciting, we're finding out that a lot of what we need most is already hidden in a trunk in our attic. Which is good news. (Mclaren 2007:3 emphasis mine).

It's like manna I tell you! It's like listening to my favourite song... Which happens to be John Mayer ''no such thing"

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7 good tips to develop yourself as a leader - [these are actually quite good... not just the regular 'Mens health type' tips]

I found these tips quite sensible and worthwhile... The author seems to have a bit of insight into the challenges and opportunities that go along with being in leadership.

You don't have to be in a position of authority to be a leader. Conversely, just because you have authority doesn't mean that people will follow you. You must be a leader to get others to follow you.
There are many books on leadership. They can have lots of great examples and in-depth explanations, but sometimes you just need something simple to help you focus on the essentials. This article intends to do just that. These are the habits that will help you and your team achieve great things if you focus on them.

1. Goals. Make it simple and easy for your team to understand the mission and to understand their part in achieving it.
  • Concise Goals. Keep them simple and easy to understand.
  • Focus your team on as few goals as possible.
  • Communicate the team's goals Often and through Various Means (team meetings, individual meetings, emails, posters, slogans). And then do it some more.
  • Track progress on goals.
  • Involve team players in tracking the goals so that they own the results.
2. Motivating People. What you reward gets done. It's that simple.
  • Incent team players to do the tasks that are most critical for reaching the team's goals. Make sure the rewards are meaningful to people. Understand each player and what they want from their job and in life. That's how you'll know how to reward them.
  • Praise, Thank, and Recognize big and small contributions by individuals. Do this often and then do it some more.
  • Set High Expectations. People will live UP to or DOWN to the expectations you set. Set them high and you're saying, "I believe in your ability to do great things!"
  • Empower people by delegating responsibility.
  • Celebrate team accomplishments often.
  • Encourage Fun. Make the work place a fun place to be. Yes, work needs to get done but short fun breaks can make all the difference in the culture of your team.
  • Pride. Foster a sense of pride in your team. As a team you could establish a mascot, create a team chant, and have a meeting that is focused solely on each individual's strengths and the team's overall strengths.
3. Walk Your Talk. You need to practice what you preach. This is how you establish trust and credibility.
  • Model the Way by participating in the team's tasks as much as your position allows.
  • Be Honest. Deliver on your promises. Actions speak louder than words.
  • Challenge Yourself. Do your best (and then some) just like you ask your team to do their best.
  • Speak Up. Just like your team members sometimes need to let you know what they've done in order for you to be able to recognize and praise them. They, in turn, need to know what you've been working on and what you've accomplished. So find ways to communicate this, modeling this key behavior.
  • Stay Sharp. You need to be competent for others to follow you. If you're not improving, you're falling behind. Always be learning and keep on top of the latest skills, technology, and knowledge in your field.
4. Inspire through a combination of
  • Unwavering Positive Future Vision
  • Commitment to Improve things along the way that will make that positive vision a reality.
  • Ability to Bootstrap as necessary when resources are tight.
5. Process Power. Good process is like having a high performance machine. Sloppy process makes things fall apart. So be sure to establish these key habits with your team.
  • Establish Routines. Do this for the team and also work with each individual to come up with their own high productivity routines. These are routines that dictate what work is done when.
  • Establish Processes for all the tasks that are done repeatedly. It takes time to set up at first, but after that it will pay off in saved time and less errors. Processes describe how work is done and might involve systems for doing the work.
  • Task Assignment. As much as possible, assign tasks according to the strengths of each teammate.
6. Change. Embrace change by seeking it out. This will tread a path for your teammates to follow.
  • Change Routines Quarterly. Look for better ways to achieve the team's goals.
  • Take Risks. Don't be afraid of failure. No one ever reaches great heights without a few failures.
  • Learn. Learn as a team from failures. "How can we improve it the next time?"
  • Encourage team members to take smart risks too by making it safe to fail. Focus on learning from past experiences and building upon them to find better solutions.
7. Advocacy. Support your team and they'll support you.
  • Promote your team members. Make sure others outside your team know about the individual team members' successes. You want your team members to excel and even graduate away from your team possibly. Don't worry. If your team is great there will be plenty of others who will want to join! This natural turnover of team members is like the renewal of cells in your body. It is necessary and healthy.
  • Promote your team. It's your job to market the great accomplishments of your team in order to get the rewards, recognition, and resources that your team deserves.
  • Fight for the most important resources and changes that will benefit your team and the organization overall. Remember to pick your battles wisely.
What else do you think is essential for a good leader? Got a good story? Please Share in the comments. We'd love to hear from you!

Written for Dumb Little Man by K. Stone, author of Life Learning Today,

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Indian man marries a DOG [Picture] to show his remorse for stoning two other dogs to death...

Yup, that Karma's a slave master! Just ask Earl! If you don't repay big time for the sins you've committed your coming back as a dog in the next life!

So, here's a bizarre story of an Indian man who married a dog to atone for the fact that he stoned two other dogs to death. He believed that his actions had left him cursed, and so this was one way of breaking the curse....

Now that's the funny side of the story... But there is also a serious thing to consider. Richard Dawkings in his book 'The God delusion' lumps all believing persons in the same category as this guy. He says that what we are doing by praying, fasting, attending worship etc. is nothing more than this kind of superstition.

I have many, many reasons that counter his simplistic categorization of faith. However, the one thing that is unquantifiable is the experience of a life changed and run through by grace, or the miracle of transforming love that frees one from fear of retribution (or bad Karma) and releases one to truly live!

That is why it is always worth remembering, the way of Christ is not just forgiveness, it is also abundant life! And, of even greater joy, is the privilege of being part of God's wonderful plan to bring abundant, free, and blessed life to all people and all of creation! Now, that's much better than marrying a DOG! It makes more sense too!

NEW DELHI - A man in southern India married a female dog in a traditional Hindu ceremony as an attempt to atone for stoning two other dogs to death ? an act he believes cursed him ? a newspaper reported Tuesday.

P. Selvakumar married the sari-draped former stray named Selvi, chosen by family members and then bathed and clothed for the ceremony Sunday at a Hindu temple in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, the Hindustan Times newspaper said.

Selvakumar, 33, told the paper he had been suffering since he stoned two dogs to death and hung their bodies from a tree 15 years ago.

"After that my legs and hands got paralyzed and I lost hearing in one ear," he said in the report.

The paper said an astrologer had told Selvakumar the wedding was the only way he could cure the maladies. It did not say whether his situation had improved.

Deeply superstitious people in rural India sometimes organize weddings to dogs and other animals, believing it can ward off certain curses.

The paper showed a picture of Selvakumar sitting next to the dog, which was wearing an orange sari and a flower garland.

The paper said the groom and his family then had a feast, while the dog got a bun.

Anyway, she's a pretty bride regardless... I hope they have a very happy life.

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Some great news about Liam, but his dad is blind as a bat...

Yesterday little Liam the great went for all his 1 year checkups (eyes, ears, muscle tone, development, but also for his injections and immunizations)...

The great news is that he is perfectly healthy! In fact, not only is he healthy, he is doing so much better than we ever anticipated! He is reaching all of his milestones, and even surpassing some. The effects of the damage to his brain are minimal, and we hope they will become even less of an issue as he grows and mature. Naturally, our doctor (responsibly) warned us that with such a premature child the first 2 years or so are always dicey, so he is not out of the woods yet. However, you wouldn't say that there is any problem if you were to see him!!!

How different things were last year this time. I know some of the photos below have been posted before, but they never seem to stop amazing me and filling me with gratitude for all that has passed.

Last year this time Megan was in hospital (for the second time) trying VERY hard not to have our baby! I remember when the pediatrician and neonatal ICU manager came to see us, we knew something was amiss. They arrived together and gave us the rundown (worse case scenario) of what could happen:

  • If Liam was born during that week he would be very frail and prone to infection.
  • There was a high chance that his lungs were not developed, so we needed to prepare ourselves for him to spend months on a respirator, and then further time an ventilator once he had learned to breath.
  • It was likely that he would suffer some brain hemorrhages as a result of his brain being so fragile and not yet capable of coping with the stimulation and trauma of being out of the womb three months early.
  • There was a high likelihood that he would need numerous bouts of surgery to help sort out any digestive problems (which are common to neonatal premature babies).
  • It was likely that he would either suffer damage to his eyes, or be entirely blind, as a result of the respiration and ventilation (oxygen damages the eyes).
After they had shown us some pictures, explained all of the risks, and allowed us to ask questions they took me into the neonatal ICU (my first of MANY visits over the next few months). I scrubbed my hands and arms, put a mask over my face, and was instructed not to touch anything or anyone. Then they showed me a little boy who was born at more or less the same stage as Liam was due to be born - he was on an open resuscitation table (with heathers), pipes, probes, and a myriad of bells and whistles attached.

It was so traumatic - when I left the ICU and had to return to the ward to tell Megie about the experience I remember sitting in the parents lounge for a few minutes just weeping... I couldn't believe that we were actually going through this! After I had composed myself I went in to Megie's room and did my best to paint everything in a positive light - but in my heart I feared that we were going to loose our little miracle boy. It was a feeling that I would feel many, many, times after his birth.

Megie and I cried our eyes out! Heck, when I think back on November, December, and January last year all I can recall is an aching hole in the pit of my stomach, and seeing the world through teary eyes.

I remember that we prayed and pleaded with God to help us, and to keep Liam from being born. We begged God to keep him and Megie safe, and then we sat in a stunned silence...

Those were dark times! But, I will confess they were made bearable by the loving support and prayers of so many friends and family - we were receiving literally hundreds of emails and text messages from concerned people (some whom we had never even met)! It was an image of the body of Christ loving itself to wholeness.

Each afternoon of that week I would leave the hospital, fetch Courtney from aftercare and do my best to be composed and strong. We kept her bag packed, so that if I got a call from the ICU Courtney could go to her aunty Madika (and have clothes for school etc.). Then we would go to the hospital and watch a bit of TV with Megie - Courtney would cry all the way home.

Tough times.... I get quite emotional even thinking about it!

Yup, so he was born very early. I got a phone call on the Thursday evening, 15 November, to say get here quickly since Megie's water had broken and there was no way to keep Liam from being born. The nurse who phoned me warned me that it was serious and that we need to be prepared for the worst. I rushed to the hospital as fast as I could (my Polo Tdi has never been quite so fast since! I was doing close to 200km/h on the highway to the hospital). When I got there Megie was in the delivery room and our gynecologist, the pediatrician, the neonatal ICU staff, and the theater sisters were all ready. There wasn't enough time for a C-section, so.... Well, you can imagine. (The photo above shows how small he was with the little blue teddy bear. The one below shows how large he is in relation to that same bear today!)

Our lives changed that instance... Suddenly so many things that were not really important just fell out of our sphere of concern. For the next three months our lives were simply focussed on spending as much time as we could in the ICU with him, and making sure that Courtney (who was not allowed into the ICU) has as normal a life as possible.

Well, it's a year later, and Liam is healthy, strong, intelligent, agile, in fact he is just perfect, perfect in every possible way!

I just don't know how we could ever thank God for such an incredible and undeserved gift! If you read this post today, or find it in a year, or two, or three, please could you offer just a short little prayer to thank God for the gift that he has bestowed upon us? We cannot do it by ourselves, we need your help to fully than God for His mercy and grace!

Well, I also had my eyes tested yesterday... it turns out I am blind as a bat.... I do have glasses, but like most people who THINK they can see without them I don't often wear them. Well from now on you'll see me 'be-specticled' much more frequently... It's a bugger getting old!

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

At what intellectual level is your blog rated?

With a picture of a guy in a fairy suit (see the previous post). I'm not surprised at the rating my blog got!

Here's my general rating:

cash advance

At least my friend Dr Bentley can communicate with highschool children!

cash advance

Pete, however, is clearly much more intelligent than he looks ;-). Here's his blog rating!

cash advance

How does your blog rate? I'm certain there must be MANY more intelligent people out there!!!

Be careful what you post on Facebook! It could get you fired!

Like just about everything, facebook has a dark side! Here's a hilarious story of an irresponsible young guy who called in sick at the office (supposedly to attend to a family emergency), but then posted photos of the Halloween party he went to attend on facebook.

He got nailed!

What's the moral of the story? DON'T LIE ABOUT NEEDING TIME OFF WORK!!! Truly, that's the moral of the story! Rather take leave (although, some would say that the moral of the story is don't post all your photos to facebook!)

I'll admit as a minister I've seen quite a few incriminating photos of members of my congregation in facebook... At least it gives me something to preach on!

So, are there any incriminating photos of you on facebook that we should know about!? Come on, post a link in the comments - we'll keep it between you, me, and few hundred other people ;-)

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Iranian Minister tells British Members of Parliament that Gays should be hung and tortured.

What kind of a world do we live in where news like this goes largely ureported! This is one of the most bizarre, and sad, news reports I have read in ages! At first I thought it cannot be serious, but it is!

Gays should be hanged, says Iranian minister - timesonline.co.uk: Homosexuals deserve to be executed or tortured and possibly both, an Iranian leader told British MPs during a private meeting at a peace conference, The Times has learnt.
Mohsen Yahyavi is the highest-ranked politician to admit that Iran believes in the death penalty for homosexuality after a spate of reports that gay youths were being hanged.
President Ahmadinejad, questioned by students in New York two months ago about the executions, dodged the issue by suggesting that there were no gays in his country.
Minutes taken by an official describe a meeting between British and Iranian MPs at the Inter-Parliamentary Union, a peace body, in May. When the Britons raised the hangings of Asqari and Marhouni, the leader of the Iranian delegation, Mr Yahyavi, a member of his parliament?s energy committee, was unflinching. He ?explained that according to Islam gays and lesbianism were not permitted?, the record states. "He said that if homosexual activity is in private there is no problem, but those in overt activity should be executed [he initially said tortured but changed it to executed]. He argued that homosexuality is against human nature and that humans are here to reproduce. Homosexuals do not reproduce."

For those interested, there?s also a series of videos on Youtube about homosexuals in Iran, which can be seen here:

1.- Part 1 of 3
2.- Part 2 of 3
3.- Part 3 of 3

Reposted from Dvorak.org

Sadly, I'm sure that barbarism like this takes place all over the world, and in many cases it goes completely unreported. Certainly, we are aware that in Southern African lesbian women are frequently raped in order teach them to have 'normal' sexual relations with men.

Let's be praying for those who suffer under such acts, and those who perpetrate them.

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Malaysian car manufacturer has plans to build an 'Islamic car'.

I have visited quite a few Islamic countries - Dubai, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Turkey and Malaysia. For those of us who are accustomed to predominantly western cultural frameworks (whether they be secular or Christian), it can be quite an eye opener to experience Islamic culture. On my recent trip to Malaysia I was amazed to see an arrow on the roof room in which I stayed at the Methodist Conference that was held at the Sunway resort and convention center... When I asked someone what the arrow was for, they said it is intended to show the occupant the way to Mecca for prayers... Sensible! (By the way, I didn't take this picture on the right, but the arrow in my room was in a similar location... Oh, and it also pointed to Mecca, but I mentioned that already!)

Today I read of a an even more amazing way to please one's Muslim customers - the Malaysian car manufacturer, Proton, is planning to build an Islamic car! Here's what they plan to do:

The Malaysian carmaker Proton has announced plans to develop an "Islamic car", designed for Muslim motorists.

The car could boast special features like a compass pointing to Mecca and a dedicated space to keep a copy of the Koran and a headscarf.

Safety features or fuel economy is one way of selling a car, but Proton thinks vehicles designed specifically for Muslims across the world represent a huge gap in the market.

What do you think a Christian car would look like!?

I'm not sure. But the picture above is a 'mulitfaith' (and even a 'secular humanist') car!

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Your gifts in relation to God's grace - a morning devotion

We are currently training a new group of Superintendent Ministers for the Methodist Church of Southern Africa (for those who are not familiar with Methodist structures, a Superintendent Minister has a ministry of oversight that is placed between the local Church and the office of the Bishop. Usually the Superintendent will have responsibility for a number of Churches and ministers in a geographical area called a Circuit. A Bishop has responsibility for managing Superintendents etc.)

Since this is a position that comes with some prominence and power one constantly needs to guard against pride and the abuse of that power. This morning I lead the opening devotions from Ephesians 2:8-10 and the following quote from John Calvin:

Nearly all wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But, while joined by many bonds, which one precedes and brings forth the other is not easy to discern. In the first place, no one can look upon oneself without immediately turning [one's] thoughts to the contemplation of God, in whom one "lives and moves" (Acts 17:28). For, quite clearly, the mighty gifts with which we are endowed are hardly from ourselves; indeed, our very being is nothing but subsistence in the one God.
Here's an excerpt from the little liturgy:

This is the day that the Lord has made.
We will rejoice and be glad in it!

Lord our God,
eternal and wonderful,
wholly to be trusted:
you give life to all;
you help those who come to you
and give hope to those who call on you.
Set our hearts and minds at peace,
that we may bring our prayers to you
with confidence and joy;

Lord our God,
In this moment of prayer let me hear again, that it was not I who first chose you, but you who chose me. Save me from all false pride which might dare lead me to believe that you chose me because of merit, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Ha ke le tje, ke le mobe,
Ke le ea khesehang,
Na har?a baetsalibe
?Na ke bonoe joang?

Jo! Ke mohlolo-hlolo
Ha ke ratoa le ?na
Ka rato le lekalo,
Le ke Morena.

[Oh, what a surprise when I've been loved by my Lord, being such a sinner myself]
If you're interested you can download the complete liturgy with hymns and prayers here.

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Can I get an 'Amen'? Christian social networking clone of digg - sermoncloud

Faith is going web 2.0!

I am an avid digg user. I like the fact PEOPLE can judge the content and 'digg' it or 'bury' it. One eventually builds up a community of people who you know have similar tastes and you can easily find stuff that is appealing and interesting.

A new Christian version of digg has just popped onto the internet - it is called 'Sermon Cloud'. You post thoughts, share your sermon ideas, and have people give it an 'Amen'.

Check it out at www.sermoncloud.com

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250 plus page views per day and rising!

It has been incredible to see the growth in the readership of this blog over the last few months. I have gone from an average of around 20-50 page views a day to over 250 unique visitors! That's a lot of eyeballs!

WOW! It is just incredible. Thank yo. Please keep coming back, and please tell others.

Have a blessed day.


"Having trouble sleeping? We have sermons to help you" 5 tips to improve your preaching

This post comes from Dr Larry Moyer at SermonCentral. It offers a few great tips to improve your preaching.

This is a good start for anyone who is looking for some sound advice to get them started. The more advanced communicator may have a few more ideas to share.

A church wanted to increase its Sunday morning attendance. They decided to try a new marketing idea. The sign on the front lawn read, "Have trouble sleeping? We have sermons - come hear one."

No preacher would want that said of his sermons ? here is one to sleep by. I know of no preacher who steps into the pulpit and says, "I think I?ll be boring." The unfortunate truth, though, is that many are. So how do we keep our preaching from becoming boring?

Let's look at five ideas. These won?t solve everything, but they will be a strong start in the right direction; plus, they are all interrelated.

Communicate, don?t just speak

Speaking is when the words of my mouth enter the openings of your ears. Communication is when what is understood in my mind is understood in yours. Communicators are not boring. Only speakers are boring. I?ve never heard one person say, "He is such a boring communicator." That means everything we say has to be so understandable, so relevant, so applicable to life where our listeners are living that they are watching us instead of their watches.

That, in my opinion, is why preachers need to be expositors. Our words may not be correct, meaningful, or penetrating; His Word promises to be so. Hebrews 4:12 says, "For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."

Your exposition of Scripture needs to be clear. The passage you studied and tore apart, needs to be put back together before you enter the pulpit. The pulpit is not the place to do your exegesis. Our audiences are not impressed with how much Greek or Hebrew we know. What they really want to know is how the passage we've studied relates to their lives.

That's one reason I am personally committed to speaking in such a way that the audience could take the passage I've spoken from plus my entire message and reduce it to one sentence. I want them to be thinking about that single truth as they leave the church, enter the workplace the next day, drive home and converse with their family. Among other things, that will assure they come back to hear what I have to say again. Relevant truth powerfully and clearly delivered is never boring.

If you want to keep from being boring, don?t make it your goal to speak. Make it your goal to communicate. Now, here is what that demands.

Study! Study! Study! Work! Work! Work!

It takes study and work, both of which can be tiring, to put together a good message. I became distressed years ago when I came across a survey that revealed the average preacher spends 15 minutes of preparation per message.

My mentor and good friend, Haddon Robinson, has said it well, "Thinking is hard work; thinking about thinking is even harder work." As a preacher, you have to think: What is the passage of Scripture saying? What exactly does it mean? How can I explain it in a way my audience will understand? How can I get them to think about their lives, their behavior, their needs, etc? That's hard work.

Speaking takes 15 minutes of preparation. Communication involves hours of preparation that can leave one spiritually energized and physically weary from the work. I personally figure on at least 20 hours per message. A good work ethic is a must in preventing you from becoming a boring speaker.

That's why, to keep from being a boring speaker (particularly if one has a sizable church), he has to be a good delegator. He delegates things to other people so he can give adequate time to study and preparation for speaking. Remember the principle in Acts 6. Others were given responsibilities so those teaching the Word could give themselves to "prayer and to the ministry of the Word." (vs. 4)

Study and work will help you in a third area.

Use Great Illustrations

We are not talking to a reading generation; we are talking to a watching one. It's been said, "People think with pictures in their head." That means to be an interesting speaker you have to use effective illustrations, a few of which are even spiced with humor. One way speaking has changed from 30 years ago is that the number of illustrations needed per message has increased.

Jesus Christ was a master communicator. He communicated, not merely spoke. How often is it said of him in the New Testament, "And he spoke to them a parable"? He used stories to communicate divine truth. Aggressively build an illustration file so that when it's time to speak, you have a whole file to draw from. Trying to find the illustration you need without a file to choose from is difficult and often impossible. The internet will "bail you out" but it will not replace your own illustration file. If I'm speaking from a passage about discipleship, I want 20 to choose from, not two. That way, from my vast reservoir that approaches discipleship from different angles, I can choose the "ringer", the one that fits just right. Illustrations enliven the audience and keep you from being boring.

Understand though, it's not just content that keeps you from becoming a boring speaker. It's also how that content is delivered. Two more ideas must be stressed.

Use Variety in Voice Tone and Speed

Variety in voice tone and speed is what helps to keep a message interesting. Avoid developing a rhythm in your speaking. Use pauses for effectiveness. At times, raise your voice for emphasis, at other times lower it. Speak faster in one sentence and slower in another. This allows the audience to enjoy an effective communicator; the audience doesn?t feel like they?re listening to a lecture. They are apt to say to you, "I benefit from what you say, and I also enjoy your delivery."

Be Enthusiastic

Enthusiasm is engaging and contagious. If you're not excited about the content of your message, the audience is not likely to be either. You are not a huckster who says, "Take this or leave it." Excitement communicates, "This is something that could change your life. Here?s how and why." If you?re not excited about the content of your message, the audience is not likely to be either!

Sustained enthusiasm demands physical fitness. Coach Vince Lombardi was once asked why he drove his players so hard toward physical fitness. He answered, "Because fatigue makes cowards out of all of us." Fatigue also produces a poor speaker. He may start out strong in his introduction, but his lack of physical fitness produces a lack of sustained enthusiasm. If you want to keep your speaking from becoming boring, the discipline of a regular vigorous exercise routine is essential.


These five ideas will go a long way in preventing you from becoming a boring speaker. I personally do not know of any preacher characterized by these five ideas that I would call boring. May God help us to so communicate that people ignore their watches - and even forget they have one. Your people will probably want to put a sign on the front lawn of the church that reads, "Warning - our pastor?s sermons are so interesting, they won?t allow you to sleep"!

So, can you add any ideas or thoughts? I know there are some really effective preachers out there!!!

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Under pressure... An exile from the Church... The difference between tasks and responsibilities

Being in leadership is often quite lonely and difficult. I face demands, expectations, and the weight of trust that is placed in me - and, I admit that I am not worthy.

In the New Testament Luke uses a word to speak of Jesus' suffering in the garden of Gethsemane (an interesting name for that place of suffering, it literally means a place of pressure. It is an olive press) - the word that Luke uses is thlipsis it means a variety of things:

NAS (45) - affliction, 14; afflictions, 6; anguish, 1; distress, 2; persecution, 1; tribulation, 16; tribulations, 4; trouble, 1;
thlipsis - it describes how I feel tonight. I am troubled. I am pressed. I feel distressed. My heart is crushed.

A good friend has resigned from the Ministry because of the inability of our denomination to embrace his radically mission oriented faith. Can you imagine, being pressed out of the Church because you want to do mission!? This friend wants nothing more than to bring people who are on the fringes of society into the centre of Christ's love. There is no structure, or regulation, or procedure, that can capture the miracle of a person finding that God loves them. But, sadly the Church cannot cope with creativity - I feel that all the time as I sit in my meetings. We are an old wineskin. We fear bursting, so we do not accept new wine.

Kev you encourage me (literally, you give me courage) to love Christ, and those who Christ loves, more extravagantly - that means both the Church and those whom the Church struggles to accept! I am sorry that we could not help the Church to see how radical the Gospel is.

My only prayer is that the Gospel will be greater than our fumbling.

You see when it comes to Christ, and Christ's love, there is a significant difference between tasks and responsibilities.

I have often felt that just about anyone can perform tasks (write letters, conduct meetings, draw up statements, hold hearings...), but not everyone has the love and courage to bear the responsibility of being pressed for the sake of the Gospel. I run from the cross of Christ's death, and so his suffering mother stands alone. I fear going to the empty tomb because I just may find that he is not there. I struggle to see Jesus in the dark places, and so I seldom look for him there.

I'm good at tasks, I'm not so good at Gospel responsibility.

Sometimes the pressure of responsibility forces us outside of structures that bind, sometimes the structures themselves cannot cope. Either way, it hurts.

If you would like to find out more about Kevin's remarkable ministry please visit the Labyrinth website.

My sadness tonight is doubled - this good brother and friend, a true Christ follower has left our ministry out of conviction.

On the same day I received a phone call to tell me of litigation against our Church by someone who was dismissed on an issue of discipline. He is likely to be re-admitted to the ministry because of a technicality in the disciplinary process.

And so, I am pressed, I am troubled, I am disturbed, I am afflicted. Perhaps I am not cut out for leadership because I fear that I cannot bear the weight of this responsibility - I wish I could simply do the tasks...

Please pray for our Church. Pray that we would have the courage to love like Christ.

Homosexuality and the Anglican Communion -

This letter came into my inbox from Centre Space, it is quite a challenging and insightful consideration of the Arch Bishop's open letter. I have not edited the grammar in any way so please excuse grammatical errors.

I am sure Davis Mac-Iyalla's response (Changing Attitude Nigeria) to Archbishop Akinola's open letter will interest you.

Archbishop Akinola?s open letter to his fellow primates ? a challenge from Changing Attitude Nigeria

Peter Akinola likens the present situation in the Anglican Communion to theoccasion when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Cathedralin Wittenburg. Archbishop Akinola helpfully reminds us that, among otherthings, Luther was asserting that the TRUTH of the gospel must always take precedence over the structures of the church.

For once, how much Changing Attitude Nigeria is in agreement with Archbishop Akinola! In particular we are sure Archbishop Akinola will rejoice at us reminding him of No. 90 of the 95, where Martin Luther asserted that, ?To repress these arguments and scruples of the laity by force alone, and not to resolve them by giving reasons, is to expose the Church and the pope to
the ridicule of their enemies, and to make Christians unhappy?.

Let us remember that in 1998 at the last Lambeth conference, all the bishops including those representing the Anglican Church in Nigeria committed to Lambeth resolution 1.10. Among other things, this included The Listening Process to listen to the experiences as well as the spiritual and theological arguments of gay and lesbian Anglicans. Instead Archbishop Akinola encouraged the government to introduce legislation to oppress us further. Can Archbishop
Akinola please explain how that is compliant with Lambeth Resolution 1.10, and how his behaviour is so different from Martin Luther?s 90th thesis?

It is not just the pastoral and spiritual well-being of gay and lesbian Nigerians that are being totally neglected by the Anglican church of Nigeria, despite his responsibilities in that area. Both gay and straight Nigerians were astonished during the historic recent elections in Nigeria ? the first time in Nigeria?s turbulent history when one democratically elected civil
government elected by the whole of the Nigerian people, was going to be replaced by another. Instead of making his presence felt with his guiding hand in that tense and difficult period, when Nigerians were often greatly in need of spiritual guidance, Archbishop Akinola had left the country to install Bishop Martyn Minns. Now, this could have waited. It may have been important in the long run, but ? really, was it that urgent, that Archbishop Akinola?s
own constituency had to be abandoned at the time of great need in favour of something that could easily have waited a few weeks? Are souls in America more important than souls in Nigeria?

Among our well-researched arguments, that many Anglicans are coming to realise, are that historically, the powers of the church itself distorted the truth of the gospel from its original meaning and both interpreted and translated it to oppress gay people and women instead of including us as equals. It is Archbishop Akinola who wants to maintain that corruption rather
than seek to establish the genuine truth in its original meaning.

Therefore he is himself guilty of the accusations that Martin Luther aimed at the
church so long ago.

Archbishop Akinola disingenuously uses the phrase ?other Godly bishops?, as if
those who disagree with his point of view are necessarily ungodly. This is an insulting and arrogant way to refer to bishops who are genuinely seeking biblical truth through prayer, listening to the experiences of those who the church currently condemns, and close re-examination of scripture in the original languages. He seems to imply that no change to the current doctrine is possible, yet a mortal community such as the Anglican Communion can and
does make grave mistakes. It is an honourable organisation that is willing to question itself and acknowledge its errors. If the Anglican Communion had followed Archbishop Akinola?s approach, it would never have relented on its endorsement of slavery that was previously based on an overly-simplistic interpretation of scripture and disregard of other people?s experiences.

Changing Attitude Nigeria insists that the same approach to re-examination of the church?s attitude to slavery ? that we are sure Akinola would have approved of ? must be applied to the debate around the acceptance of committed Christians, who are faithful and committed members of the Anglican Church, who were born destined to be attracted to the same sex. Therefore there is no justifiable reason for the Lambeth conference not to go ahead as planned, and for all the bishops all over the world including those from the global south
group to attend.

Changing Attitude Nigeria calls on all committed Anglicans, including primates and bishops, to prayerfully seek ways to resolve the present dispute in the Anglican Communion, recognising that we are all striving to achieve the same objective ? to understand God?s will and how to apply it in Christian faith.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

What are the world's worst products and brands? And, why are they the worst?

Graeme Codrington, who I rate as one of the best public speakers in our nation today, often posts some extremely challenging thoughts on his blog tmtd.biz.

I have heard him speak on two occasions (both were 'mind the gap' presentations - by the way he has written that into a fantastic book that is well worth reading!  Click on the previous link to buy your copy).  Both times I left the presentation inspired, challenged, and ready to change the world!  Not bad for a Baptist (at least I think he's a Baptist!  Please correct me if I'm wrong!)

He posted this very interesting post (I assume it is a challenge to his corporate clients, many of whom must read his blog - since I noted the later post on triple bottom line reporting).  

This was truly challenging stuff:

The world?s worst products, as voted for by Consumers International.

Coca-Cola ? for continuing the international marketing of its bottled water, Dasani, despite admitting it comes from the same sources as local tap water.
Kellogg?s ? for the worldwide use of cartoon-type characters and product tie-ins aimed at children, despite high levels of sugar and salt in their food products.
Mattel ? for stonewalling US congressional investigations and avoiding overall responsibility for the global recall of 21 million products.
With the overall prize going to: Takeda Pharmaceuticals ? for taking advantage of poor US regulation and advertising sleeping pills to children, despite health warnings about pediatric use.
Richard Lloyd, Director General of Consumers International, said:

?These multi-billion dollar companies are global brands with a responsibility to be honest, accountable and responsible. In highlighting their short-comings Consumers International and its 220 member organisations are holding corporations to account and demanding businesses take social responsibility seriously.?

See a newspaper report with some details and commentary here.
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Finding your pathway to God...

A problem that I often face in my preaching is that one has to try to find some way of presenting integral Christian truths in a manner that will appeal to, inspire, comfort, and challenge, many different persons.

Personalities are wonderful things! Some people like noise, others like quiet, some like dirt, others like to be indoors, some people like to stay up late, others like to go to bed early (the two people usually marry one another...)

At Bryanston Methodist Church we have just come towards the end of a series entitled 'Discovering God's Guidance' - the end of this series brings us to our preparations for Christmas. In the series we have tried to help our members understand just how much God longs to reveal God's love, God's purposes, God's will, and God's guidance to us through varying sources of revelation (these have included such elements as scripture, relationships, of course the person of the Holy Spirit etc.).

However, if the truth be told, we all discover God's guidance in different ways - there are some things that switch us on to God, and some that turn us off. That is where this great little resource comes in. It is from the Willow Creek association by John Ortberg. I have enjoyed his books a great deal! They are well written, have a sound theology, but don't bludgeon you to death with boring and unnecessary depth. They are intended for people who wish to learn about their faith in a manner that is engaging and applicable - there are other books, by other authors, to help you delve a more deeply into certain doctrines and approaches to faith.

So, this evening I shall be concluding the service, sharing with Christopher Harrison and our team, in an experience of the 7 Spiritual Pathways that Ortberg has identified. Of course there are many more, but these 7 are pretty wide ranging and helpful.

The 7 pathways to connecting with God and discovering God's guidance that we will talk about are:

  1. Creation
  2. Worship
  3. Contemplative
  4. Intellectual
  5. Relationship
  6. Serving
  7. Activism

If you're interested to discover more about these then why not get a copy of Ortberg's book?

I have also attached the experiential liturgy that we shall use the evening, and here's a copy of my sermon (with due diligence paid to the sources from whence it comes).

I hope it will be of some use!



Click here for the participative and experiential liturgy for the 7 Pathways service.

Click here for the sermon notes for the 7 Pathways/a> service.

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Survey shows that 'facebook' gets more internet traffic than porn amongs America University students.

On the way home from this morning's worship service I listened to the TWIT podcast (TWIT stands for 'this week in tech'). On the show Leo Laporte reported on a recent survey of the American .edu domain (Universities in the USA have the .edu domain, e.g., Duke.edu).

The results of the survey showed that internet users between the ages of 18-24 used facebook more often than they searched for pornography on the internet.

Here's the top four uses for the internet according to the survey:

4. Internet pornography
3. Web based email
2. Internet search engines
1. Facebook!

Wow! that is incredible... Anyone else out there an avid facebook user? I have gone off facebook a little in recent months... I probably log on once a week to check my messages and delete all those mindless invites to 'save the toenails of east Bolivian cycling peasants' ...

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Prayers for Remembrance Sunday

This morning I shall be preaching at St Saviour's Presbyterian Church in Midrand, and then at the Bryanston Methodist Church. I shall be using excerpts from this wonderful liturgy in the service.

This Sunday is remembrance Sunday - let us never forget that the way of Christ is love and peace. Let us pray against war and violence, and remember those who have died at the hands of others.

Ever-living God
we remember those whom you have
from the storm of war into the peace of
your presence;
may that same peace
calm our fears,
bring justice to all peoples
and establish harmony among the nations,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The following hymn, or another that
similarly expresses hope in God and
trust for the future, may be sung:

O God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come,
our shelter from the stormy blast,
and our eternal home;

Beneath the shadow of thy throne
thy saints have dwelt secure;
sufficient is thine arm alone,
and our defence is sure.

Before the hills in order stood,
or earth received her frame,
from everlasting thou art God,
to endless years the same.

A thousand ages in thy sight
are like an evening gone;
short as the watch that ends the night
before the rising sun.

Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
bears all our years away;
they fly forgotten, as a dream
dies at the opening day.

O God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come,
be thou our guard while troubles last,
and our eternal home.

You can download the complete copy of the liturgy from this link:Remembrance_Sunday_service_freeversion.rtf

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The facebook craze has JUST reached CRAZY proportions! Watch this GEEK youtube video to see what I mean!

Yup, this is the indicator... We've just crossed an invisible line on the intrawebs! FACEBOOK!!! How many of you belong to that time stealing void (sorry, that should read 'social networking tool')?

Well, beware! Here's a video that shows just how incredibly addictive, destructive, and geeky, facebook truly is!

From dvorak.org./blog

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No more 'blogger tags'... That's been the problem

Well, friends, I am pleased to say that I have discovered what has been SLOWING my blog down to a crawl (no, it's not the content! Although that has been known to put some to sleep!)

Rather, it is those pesky 'blogger tags'. They are useful little critters, they let the blog contributors organise their thoughts, ideas, and posts into categories. So, if a reader finds a post interesting and wishes to read all posts on that subject she, or he, simply clicks on the tag and a page will come up listing any posts that were tagged with that subject.

It's a great idea! But, like so many great ideas it has been very poorly implemented! When you have a blog the size of mine, each time to add (or add to) a tag it has to republish the entire tags database! Now when that is an internal transaction on the blogger servers (for those who's blogs are hosted on the blogger.com domain, that's you) it doesn't take to too long. However, if like me you host your blog on your own domain it can take well over an hour to post a single blog entry!!!!

So, this is the end of blogger tags on my blog! In future, I'm afraid that it will take a little more work to find related posts... You will need to use the Search Bar on the top left of the page...

So for example if you want to see all my posts with the word "Vespa" in them you will need to type that into the seach bar and hit return!

R.I.P. blogger tags.... You did not serve me well...

New name for Creationsists... 'New term for creationists: 'cdesign proponentsists'

I call it majoring in minors... You know, like when one gets close to the end of an academic year - the pressure is on, tempers are running high, and students don't have much grace for one another. And so, instead of doing what they should be doing (studying for their final exams), they find things to fight about! They end up missing the mark because they're majoring in minors.

I think the creation / evolution debate is one of those... We have so many bright, creative, committed Christians (from both camps) who are alienated from each other, whose energy and time is dissipated, and their attention is diverted from what really matters (that God loves the world, that God desires for us to be agents of change and renewal in the world etc...)

Anyway, here's an interesting post on a new controversy in the 'creationist' camp:

MAKE senior editor Phillip Torrone reviewed NOVA's Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial.

200711091301When the advocates of Intelligent Design during the trial said that the book "Of Pandas and People" had nothing to do with creationism, they lied; it turned out the original drafts were all about Creationism. After the drafts were subpoenaed (thousand of pages) it was discovered that a simple search and replace was used to change the text from creationism wording to something, well, less creationism sounding. It was changed because the Supreme Court in 1987 ruled it was unconstitutional to teach creationism in public schools. When I say "search and replace" I really mean they found examples of where the words didn?t exactly get changed enough. You can see it here...

Wherever the word "creationists" appeared it was replaced with "cdesign" "proponentsists" - that?s merely creationists without the "reation" and with "design" and "proponents" replaced in.


Another example of sincere people missing the point...

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American BLOG amazed that South African ATM offers 8 language choices - Koreans mustn't look at women in toilets [pictures]

BoingBoing has this picture of an ABSA Bank ATM on their front page! They are amazed that you can choose from 8 different languages on an ATM here in South Africa.

It's called DIVERSITY... Pronounce it slowly... DIE VER CI TEE.... Not everyone who is of a different race, different gender, different language, or different cultural background is to be forced into a North American English mold, have their country invaded, their natural resources plundered and their ATM's changed to English! Oooopppps, that was just a rant. I deserve to be flamed for that! Sorry.

Can you imagine how the picture taker would have felt if he had discovered that we actually have 11 official languages in South Africa and that the majority of South African speak as many as 4 languages (English, isiZulu (or Xhosa), Sotho (or a variant thereof), and Afrikaans)?

Now that I have upset the Americans, and I do appologise! Truthfully, I have never yet met an American who is what the stereotypes suggest. My experience is that whilst the 'nation state' is quite self obsessed and abusive, all the Americans I have met are just great, open minded, people...

So, now let me poke some fun at South Africans (let's see if I can upset everyone this morning... Sorry!)

When I was in South Korea last year I was amazed to see this sign warning women to watch out for men looking over the tops of toilet stalls... I thought 'how bizarre', but then a Korean friend ask me a simple question, "Do you think it doesn't happen in South Africa", to which I replied "well, I'm sure it does". So he said, "well, why not do something to stop it?"

Sensible! It's amazing what we find strange about one another! Any other crazy signs out there? Just post a link to the comments or email me.

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If you're thinking of joining an 'organised crime syndicate' (like the Mafia, the Nigerians, or the cowboys!?) here are 10 commandments to help you!

Yup, our minister of Justice informed us (South Africans) on Thursday this week that 'organised' crime was growing at such a rapid rate in Southern Africa that they were unable to cope with it.

When I heard this I thought two thoughts (which is an incredible feat for me! I had to lie down afterwards!)

First, I thought that it is never a good idea to announce to your citizens that you don't have a handle on crime!!

Second, I thought that having made that very astute announcement to the public, many enterprising persons may consider joining a crime syndicate of some sorts since there seems to be little chance of being caught!

So, here are the 10 commandments for joining the Mafia [insert name of organised crime syndicate here]:

The BBC reports that when Italian police searched a Mafia boss' hideout, they found a list of ten rules for proper mafioso etiquette.

1. No-one can present himself directly to another of our friends. There must be a third person to do it.

2. Never look at the wives of friends.

3. Never be seen with cops.

4. Don?t go to pubs and clubs.

5. Always being available for Cosa Nostra is a duty - even if your wife?s about to give birth.

6. Appointments must absolutely be respected. [someone should teach our mafia friends that split infinitives are never acceptable in English sentences!!! Perhaps they should have a language editor read their work before making it public, or putting it into print... Just a thought - Dion]

7. Wives must be treated with respect.

8. When asked for any information, the answer must be the truth.

9. Money cannot be appropriated if it belongs to others or to other families. [This makes for a pretty poor crime strategy! Heck you couldn't even be a small time dictator, or the next President of the ANC with a strategy like this! These guys should spend a bit of time with our politicians to see how to 'miss-appropriate' the funds of others. Just a thought for criminals... Dion]

10. People who can?t be part of Cosa Nostra: anyone who has a close relative in the police, anyone with a two-timing relative in the family, anyone who behaves badly and doesn?t hold to moral values.

Very interesting isn't it! Heck, these guys obviously operated in a time when honour was far more important than success... Now compare the above to Gene Autry's Cowboy Code (from 1930 - look how clean cut he is! Rule 8 makes perfect sense), which I think is just about the best set of rules for living a good life that I ever seen:
1. The Cowboy must never shoot first, hit a smaller man or take an unfair advantage.

2. A Cowboy must never go back on his word, or a trust confided in him.

3. A Cowboy must always tell the truth.

4. A Cowboy must be gentle with children, the elderly and small animals.

5. A Cowboy must not adovcate or possess racially or religiously interolerant views and ideas.

6. A Cowboy must help people in distress.

7. A Cowboy must be a good worker.

8. A Cowboy must keep himself clean in thought, speech, action and personal habits.

9. A Cowboy must respect women, parents and his nations's views.

10. A Cowboy is a patriot.

Link (Via The Day The Tried to Kill Me)

I thought this was quite good. At some stage we tried to design a 'code of conduct' for Methodist ministers. We do have the 'Rules of the Helper', but we wanted to make something more contemporary.... One of the rules was not to argue, but we couldn't agree on that, so we gave up ;-)

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Friday, November 09, 2007

Just to remind you what a Vespa SHOULD look like... Here's a picture of my old girl...

Yeah, I know, she's painted Orange and I'm not a Cheetahs fan (the South African Cheetahs rugby team have orange as their colour), but heck you have to admit that my old Vespa looks sweet!!!!

She is a 1967 Vespa Sprint VLB. You'll see me buzzing around Pretoria on her in both summer and winter.

I love the contrast between the paint on the bike and the bricks at my office. Don't you?

I haven't ridden her in a few days - I have an hour or so tomorrow morning, I think it's time for another ride!

Now, now, remember that ENVY is a sin! Any other Vespa lovers out there!?

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A list of people with the highest IQ's on record... See if your name is listed here.

Some years ago I wrote a paper on IQ (intelectual quotient), EQ (emotional quotient) and SQ (spiritual quotient). If you're interested in these concepts read the blurb below and download the paper, otherwise just scroll beyond it to see who the REALLY smart people are!

Title: Spiritual Quotient: A neuro-theological key to wellness and wholeness.

Abstract: Research in both science and theology has begun to move away from reductionist and mechanistic views of the human person towards approaches that emphasise the interaction and inter-relationship of the various systems of human being. This paper aims to discuss some of the implications that intelligence, and in particular spiritual intelligence (also called SQ), may have upon the wellness of a person as a whole living, spiritual, being. The paper will start with a discussion on the three primary systems that constitute a whole person. Next there will be some insight into the functioning of the human brain. This will be followed by a presentation of the three dominant forms of intelligence (IQ, EQ and SQ). These are commonly identified through a study of the functioning of the human brain. After that some time will be spent looking at the theological implications (neuro-theology) of spiritual intelligence, discussing some possible effects that this form of intelligence could have on wholeness and wellness in human being. Finally, the paper will end with some suggestions on the development of a spiritual life that will be beneficial to wellness.

Here is the paper itself: (please note that it is not in final form, and so is not yet suitable for quoting. Thank you).

SQ paper TSSA 2005 draft.doc
OK, enough of that, so are you ready to find out who the smart folks are?

Here goes (this post comes from here):

Background Info

In order to establish a baseline knowledge, IQ (intelligence quotient) is a score derived from attempting to measure the actual mental horsepower of any given individual. Personally I place little value in IQ tests, but I do acknowledge that they are an indicator of some common potential success factors, so we?ll leave it at that.

The ?average? IQ is by definition 100, so if you score below that you are dumber than average, and above it means smarter than average.

IQ Bellcurve
The distribution of IQ scores is as follows:

People Still Alive

From the Past

In 1926, psychologist Dr. Catherine Morris Cox - who had been assisted by Dr. Lewis M. Terman, Dr. Florence L. Goodenaugh, and Dr. Kate Gordon - published a study "of the most eminent men and women" who had lived between 1450 and 1850 to estimate what their IQs might have been. Data from that study as well as other sources around the net were compiled to form the following list. Please drop me a comment if you have additions or corrections (make sure and cite sources).

Also, see Wikipedia's list of Universal Genius (Polymaths).

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Weird blog post of the day - What happens when SPAM is turned into art? [Picture]

Like most of you I get LOTS of spam in my inbox every day! Invitations to get a cheap mortgage (whatever that is... In South Africa we only have home loans), the best price of cheap degrees (what the heck for, I've already bought my fair share) and adverts to extend certain parts or... well you know, swallow the blue pill...

Well, have you ever considered what it would look like if SPAM headlines were turned into works of art? Now that's the kind of stuff any self respecting internet Junkie needs to have on their office wall!

Go here for more - Enjoy!

This is the blurb from BoingBoing:

Linzie Hunter paints illustrations that incorporate the subject lines of the spam she finds in her in-box. She captures the daffy mania of spam-subjects perfectly, too! Link (via Kottke) See also: Spam subjects printed on custom tees

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Widows, witchcraft, and the abuse of African culture to deny Southern African women their rights...

Culture is a necessary thing - it structures our lives in relationship, it adds meaning and depth to communal practices, it enlivens our history, and shapes our future.

You would know that I ardently encourage the adoption of the ideology of ubuntu as a principle for relationship based justice, harmony, and equity. I do so primarily because there is so much of this ideology that can positively shape society (particularly societies that have become competitive, self obsessed, and disregarding of the rights and responsibilities that we have for one another's wellbeing). In fact, I find many more Gospel values in the principles of ubuntu than I do in Western Capitalist individualism...

However, there is a HUGE disconnect between the ideology of ubuntu and its ethical application in contemporary Southern Africa. Whilst the ideology is touted by many, there are very few who hold it dear enough to actually practice it!

I wrote a paper on this subject that you download and read here.

Sadly, my experience has been that even in traditional African communities, as soon as the individual can afford a BMW, buy a house in the subburbs, and outwit, outlast and outplay other persons, the ideology and philosophy of interdependent identity and harmony in relationship is chucked out of the windows in the pursuit of individual gain!

Sadly, culture is abused by many as a tool to justify abusive practises, and at the same time avoid responsibility. This disturbing article comes from the Mail & Guardian newspaper.

While the United Nations Millennium Development Goals aim to empower women and eradicate poverty, Southern African inheritance practices are having the opposite effect -- leaving widows impoverished, maligned and separated from their own children, says a recent study out of Mozambique.

The study by Save the Children highlights how tradition -- which dictates that the man's family can devolve the deceased's assets among themselves -- leads to widows being made scapegoats for their husbands? deaths and losing custody of their children.

Maria Delia and Isauru Mandlate, part of the team that conducted the study for the Save the Children Foundation in Mozambique, say that in addition to dealing with bereavement, a widow faces the immediate loss of her home and all her possessions.

Women are commonly accused of bewitching their husbands and causing their deaths, and this is used as a pretext for refusing them their inheritance.

?The family is not interested in negotiating, they just want the goods, "says Delia. ?This is revenge for her having 'killed' her husband. They are really rough and don?t leave her with a single penny."

But even more painful than the loss of material possessions, say the researchers, is the way the husband?s family will poison the children?s minds, leading them to believe their mother is responsible for their father's death.

"The children are not allowed to visit their mother -- the children are told to run away from their mother if she comes to visit," says Delia.

Widows who refuse to participate in the ritual of "purification" -- which requires them to have unprotected sexual intercourse with a male member of their husband?s family to dispel bad spirits -- are banished from the family and even the district.
The result is that dispossessed widows turn to sex work or cheap manual labour to survive and are more vulnerable to risky sexual activity and HIV infection.

Delia tells the story of a young widow whose husband died of Aids. "Her husband had gone to South Africa to work on the mines and while he was away she lived with her in-laws. When he became ill he came home and she cared for him. When he died, they [the in-laws] kicked her out."

The woman ended up living in a mud hut, without even a bed to sleep on and just the clothes on her back. She survives on the few stalks of maize and vegetables she can grow.

The study says patrilineal African societies view male heirs as continuing the family line, while women are seen as assuming only the role of temporary guardians of assets. As a result the deceased's family members feel they are entitled to all his material possessions -- even if the widow has worked to contribute to the shared assets.

The report notes that despite Mozambique being a signatory to instruments such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, the government has yet to produce comprehensive legislation on inheritance.

In South Africa this tradition has been challenged by progressive human rights legislation, where a precedent was set by the Constitutional Court in 2004.

Nontupheko Bhe, a widowed Khayelitsha woman, approached the court to have the Black Administration Act -- which provided that if Africans died intestate their estate would be devolved according to customary law -- declared unconstitutional.

The court ruled that the Act was an "anachronistic piece of legislation which ossified 'official' customary law and caused egregious violations of the right of black African persons? and found that "whatever the role of male primogeniture may have played in traditional society, it can no longer be justified".

Despite this landmark ruling, the law is often at odds with deep-seated cultural norms and many women remain unaware of their rights.
"In many instances the widow is made aware of her rights too late and the assets have been claimed by the in-laws or the livestock is already sold," says Busi Motshana, a para­legal at Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre in Acornhoek, Limpopo.

In addition to ignorance of their rights, there is also a culture of silence among women and children -- who are generally passive participants in traditional society. In rural areas access to facilities and institutions of justice is an added obstacle. The drawing up of a formal will is rare, in part due to issues of access, but also due to the fear that doing so is tantamount to inviting an early death.

"This is becoming an issue as more people die of HIV/Aids," says Delia.

"More needs to be done in the communities to educate and inform these women on their rights and also encourage community reform."

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Join Dion's Random Ramblings' MyBlogLog community!

I make use of a few community tools to keep an eye on statistics on this blog. The one that seems to drive the most traffic here (thanks Steve for pointing me in this direction!) is the Yahoo! community called MyBlogLog. So, if you're a blogger and you want to get some more traffic to your site sign up for a yahoo ID (if you don't already have one) and join my community... We all send traffic to each other.

The majority of my traffic comes from Steve and Stephen (both rocks of the Church! Although from quite opposite sides of the theological spectrum, Steve is an Orthodox Christian, I have known him since before the REAL internet when he was running a BBS! Steve and I also served on the Standards Generating Body for Theology and Ministry that designed the Theology qualifications used by South African Universities, Colleges and Seminaries... Stephen is reformed / emergent, I have never met him, although I am constantly challenged by his great blog posts... He also happens to live in Cape Town, and if I remember he is a Stormers supporter - which means that he dwells richly in God's favour!)

So, sign into MyBlogLog community and let's see how much traffic we can send each other!

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What happens when an AGNOSTIC tries to live according to a literalist reading of the Bible for a year?

Well, you'll find the answer below. Of greatest interest is the fact that a literal reading of the TEXT, without the one who is the only true WORD OF GOD (Jesus, according John 1) makes it impossible.

I found this post amazing! I need to read this book.

Here's Richards' reflection:

A. J. Jacobs, author of my second favorite book of 2004, The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World, in which he reads the entire thirty-two volumes of the Encyclopaedia Britannica in one year, has attempted another magisterial feat. However, he quickly finds his new endeavor is easier said than done.

His quest: to live the ultimate biblical life.

Or more precisely, to follow the Bible as literally as possible. To obey the Ten Commandments. To be fruitful and multiply. To love my neighbor. To tithe my income. But also to abide by the oft-neglected rules: to avoid wearing clothes made of mixed fibers. To stone adulterers. And, naturally, to leave the edges of my beard unshaven (Leviticus 19:27). I am trying to obey the entire Bible, without picking and choosing. (3-4)

He begins by reading straight through the Bible over a four week period. He documents ?every rule, every guideline, every suggestion, every nugget of advice? (8). The fruit of his labor is a seventy-two page list with over seven hundred rules. This is shy of the 613 rules originally compiled from the Torah by the medieval rabbi Maimonides, but Jacobs includes the whole Bible.

He initially encounters two problems: (1) how to follow some of the ?crazier? commands of the Bible, and (2) how to follow commands that call for love and devotion to God.

In regard to following the ?crazier? commands, he writes of something that anyone familiar with the Bible knows. He calls it ?one of the biggest mysteries of the Bible.

How can these ethically advanced rules and these bizarre decrees be found in the same book? And not just the same book. Sometimes the same page. The prohibition against mixing wool and linen comes right after the command to love your neighbor. It?s not like the Bible has a section called ?And Now for Some Crazy Laws.? (43)

With the help of an earnest shatnez (?mixed fibers?) tester named Mr. Berkowitz, Jacobs soon learns how to keep from mixing two types of material. He also invents a creative way to obey the command to not touch a woman during the time of her period (see Leviticus 15:19). Since he can?t touch his wife or anything she sits on for a week, he buys a portable folding stool that he carries everywhere.

Over time, he comes to discover that even the strangest commandments may have value. After all, should anyone really expect to fully understand every reason behind God?s commands? And perhaps if one searches hard enough, one can find positive reasons for even the oddest commands. For example, in regard to God?s declaration that locusts are ?clean? food Jacobs discovers,

The only way for the poor to survive was by eating the locusts themselves. So if the Bible didn?t approve of locust eating, the poorest Israelites would have died of starvation. This I like. More and more, I feel it?s important to look at the Bible with an open heart. If you roll up your sleeves, even the oddest passages?and the one about edible bugs qualifies?can be seen as a sign of God?s mercy and compassion. (176)

The second problem he encounters is his realization that ?the Bible commands you not only to believe in God but to love Him. It commands this over and over again. So how do I follow that?? (20) He attempts to act out the faith even though he does not really believe it. This causes him to worry about breaking the Third Commandment: ?If I don?t believe the holy words I?m saying, isn?t that taking the Lord?s name in vain?? (21)

During his year-long quest, Jacobs makes some surprising and enlightening discoveries. I recount a few.

He comes to value many of the insights of the Bible. For example, in regard to the Bible?s prohibition on idolatry and suspicion of images in general, he writes,

I think there?s something to the idea that the divine dwells more easily in text than in images. Text allows for more abstract thought, more of a separation between you and the physical world, more room for you and God to meet in the middle. I find it hard enough to conceive of an infinite being. Imagine if those original scrolls came in the form of a graphic novel with pictures of the Lord? I?d never come close to communing with the divine.
The Bible is right: A deluge of images does encourage idolatry. Look at the cults of personality in America today. Look at Hollywood. Look at Washington. I?d like to see the next presidential race be run according to Second Commandment principles. No commercials. A radio-only debate. We need an ugly president. I know we?re missing out on some potential Abe Lincolns because they?d look gawky and gangly on TV. (106)

It is particular touching when he experiences authentic praise welling up from within and gives voice to it. He recounts this realization ?that felt like a punch to his stomach:

Here I am being prideful about creating an article in a midsize American magazine. But God?if He exists?He created the world. He created flamingos and supernovas and geysers and beetles and the stones for these steps I?m sitting on.
?Praise the Lord,? I say out loud.
I?d always found the praising-God parts of the Bible and my prayer books awkward. The sentences about the all-powerful, almighty, all-knowing, the host of hosts, He who has greatness beyond our comprehension. I?m not used to talking like that. It?s so over the top. I?m used to understatement and hedging and irony. And why would God need to be praised in the first place? God shouldn?t be insecure. He?s the ultimate being.
Now I can sort of see why. It?s not for him. It?s for us. It takes you out of yourself and your prideful little brain. (220)

This is a surprising discovery from one who begins the book by declaring, ?I?ve rarely said the word Lord, unless it?s followed by of the Rings. I don?t often say God without preceding it with Oh my? (21).

He also discovers something that many faithful Christians have yet to acknowledge. In the midst of Jacobs? feverish attempt to follow the Bible literally, a friend warns that he is treading on thin ice. Jacobs writes, ?He told me: Stop looking at the Bible as a self-help book. That is the way I view it a lot of the time. I ask myself, ?How can religion make me more joyous? How can it give my life more meaning? How can it help me raise my son so he won?t end up an embezzler or a racketeer?? But religion is more than that? (208).

His most powerful experiences occur when he practices the faith within religious communities. This fact causes him to reflect on what is lacking in his quest ? the company of a believing community. He writes,

My quest is a paradoxical one. I?m trying to fly solo on a route that was specifically designed for a crowd. As one of my spiritual advisers, David Bossman, a religion professor at Seton Hall University, told me: ?The people of the Bible were ?groupies.? You did what the group did, you observed the customs of your group. Only the crazy Europeans came up with the idea of individualism. So what you?re doing is a modern phenomenon.? (213)

Perhaps most importantly, he quickly recognizes that it is impossible to follow the Bible with consistent literalism: He discovers that ?when it comes to the Bible, there is always?but always?some level of interpretation, even on the most seemingly basic rules.? This makes it practically impossible for Jacobs ? or anyone ? to fulfill the goal ?to follow the Bible as literally as possible.?

The year showed me beyond a doubt that everyone practices cafeteria religion. It?s not just moderates. Fundamentalists do it too. They can?t heap everything on their plate. Otherwise they?d kick women out of church for saying hello (?the women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak ???1 Corinthians 14:34) and boot out men for talking about the ?Tennessee Titans? (?make no mention of the names of other gods...??Exodus 23:13).
But the more important lesson was this: there?s nothing wrong with choosing. Cafeterias aren?t bad per se. I?ve had some great meals at cafeterias. I?ve also had some turkey tetrazzini that gave me the dry heaves for sixteen hours. The key is in choosing the right dishes. You need to pick the nurturing ones (compassion), the healthy ones (love thy neighbor), not the bitter ones. Religious leaders don?t know everything about every food, but maybe the good ones can guide you to what is fresh. They can be like a helpful lunch lady who?OK, I?ve taken the metaphor too far. (328)

Jacobs concludes the year having experienced a significant transformation. He recounts, ?As with most biblical journeys, my year has taken me on detours I could never have predicted. I didn?t expect to herd sheep in Israel. Or fondle a pigeon egg. Or find solace in prayer. Or hear Amish jokes from the Amish. I didn?t expect to confront just how absurdly flawed I am. I didn?t expect to discover such strangeness in the Bible. And I didn?t expect to, as the Psalmist says, take refuge in the Bible and rejoice in it? (7-8).

In the end, he considers himself ?a reverent agnostic,? which ?isn?t an oxymoron, I swear. I now believe that whether or not there?s a God, there is such a thing as sacredness. Life is sacred. The Sabbath can be a sacred day. Prayer can be a sacred ritual. There is something transcendent, beyond the everyday. It?s possible that humans created this sacredness ourselves, but that doesn?t take away from its power or importance? (329).

He also possesses a newfound reverence for the Bible: ?The Bible may have not been dictated by God, it may have had a messy and complicated birth, one filled with political agendas and outdated ideas?but that doesn?t mean the Bible can?t be beautiful and sacred? (316).

It is a splendid experience to encounter the faith anew with an eager novice willing to dive in completely. A. J. Jacobs is a fun, friendly, and surprisingly insightful companion all along the way.

Quotes excerpted from The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible - A. J. Jacobs
© Richard J. Vincent, 2007

How do you cope with your guilt? I'll be honest... I struggle.

Guilt is a powerful emotion. It is powerful enough to dissipate the energy of even the most energetic of persons. I am never quite sure how to deal with guilt - I guess that some of it relates to the context of the guilt (i.e., whether it is something about which I should rightly feel guilty, or whether it is guilt that is wrongly imposed upon me by another person, situation, or group).

But, let me give you three examples of my struggle with guilt...

Yesterday I was driving home from a meeting in Benoni. Just as I was about to enter the highway I saw a lady selling mielies (corn) on the side of the road. I am not particularly partial to corn - but I don't think that is her problem. I noticed that her clothes were threadbare and that she was quite thin. She had a tiny little baby on her lap. My heart instantly went out to her and her child. Here's a woman trying to eek out an existence selling corn on the side of the road. I had R20 in my pocket (about US$3). The moment I saw her I felt a desire to stop and give her the R20. But, I didn't. How sad is that... Do you know why I didn't do it? Pride - my pride to tell you the truth. I felt that I may embarrass her by stopping and giving her the money and then driving off. In fact if the truth be told I felt that I may embarrass myself by stopping, giving her the money and then driving off. And so I drove past onto the onramp of the freeway. About halfway onto the freeway I wished I had stopped... Then it started. Guilt.

I still feel guilty, guilty enough to make me write about it and ask your advice. You see, R20 is not a lot of money to me. I can do without it. I am fairly certain she can not. I haven't stopped thinking about it since. I lay in bed last night and asked God to forgive me. But, I still feel guilty! What do I do?

The second example has to do with my rather difficult personality. I am forthright, decisive, goal orientated, and able to see things that others cannot. This helps me to lead. However, the weakness of my personality is that it can be so functional that relationships suffer. Today I had a few appointments to meet, correspondence to catch up on, my 3 services to prepare for Sunday, phone calls to make, reports to write, minutes to edit... You get the idea. One of our students - an outstanding student - came to see me at the office. The student needed time more than anything. This student did not need guidance, or help with an assignment, or a decision to be made about vocational choices. This student needed time. I was so pressed by 'appointments' and a ringing phone that I didn't give the time that was needed to this person. The moment the student left my office I knew that I had missed the mark, I had dropped the ball, I had not done what was needed in that moment. And then, it started.

I feel guilty. People are much more important than tasks. I know it, I know it! If I had the moment over I would do it differently. But, what do I do with my guilt?

A third example has to do with a well-meaning person whose generosity overwhelms me. This person started putting money aside in an account some years ago to help me and my family. They have blessed Megan and I again and again at some of the times of our greatest need. There were times in our ministry where we didn't have either money or food, and somehow this person would just know, and phone, and we would be cared for. Over the last two years the money this person has been putting aside has grown to a considerable sum of money - tens of thousands of rands. Today he phoned to ask me where he can deposit this sizable amount. I had to tell him the truth, which is that Megan, Courtney, Liam and I are so blessed that we currently have no pressing unmet needs. We eat well, we have enough clothes, we have a lovely home provided by the Church. Both Megan and I have salaries. We have covered Liam's medical debts. We are blessed - I asked if we could put the money towards helping some of my students with their fees. I could tell right away that my response was not what he wanted to hear. He had sacrificed because he loves God, and he had heard the message I so often preach that he must love those who love God, but I wasn't allowing him to do that...

I know, rationally, that I had make a tough choice - of course I cannot take the money, but I feel guilty nonetheless. What do I do about my guilt?

I'm not sure what one does with guilt.

I pray about mine.

I write about it.

I try to apologize, and make choices that will help me to grow where I can, avoid repeating avoidable mistakes, and grow robust enough to face those situations where a tough choice will have to be made that has no easy outcome.

Guilt is a powerful emotion. I struggle with it.

This useful article by Rich Vincent helped me some time ago. I just spent a few minutes browsing it again last night. There's some good stuff out there.

PS. I like the way Rich refers to himself not as the 'Web Master' of his site, but as the 'Web Servant'. Good one!

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

'Rapture ready' death freaks discuss their hope for the end of the world... It's sad really... [Video]

One of the things that most scared me about the pre-millennial eschatology of those folks who believe in the rapture was what would happen if I was raptured with them (however, most of those folks tell me (quite frequently) that I don't stand a chance... They seem to think that if I am going anywhere it will be south rather than north)...

However, can imagine the rapture takes place and there is chaos here in earth as cars crash through barriers, flights fall from the sky, and ice cream cones lay melting on the sidewalk (oh the horror!) BUT, there is something even more scary than that... The person who first introduced my delicate mind to the theology of the rapture was wrinkled 100 and something year old Religious Education teacher at my highschool... If the movies (Left behind, et al) are anything to go by then when we are raptured our clothes will be left behind... Can you imagine the horror of seeing my RE teacher naked flying through the sky at 1 million miles an hour....

Nope... It is too scary to imagine. Here's the first video.

This one seems to suggest that I must wear clean underwear all the time... He seems to know when it is happening... Come to think of it, that's not a bad suit. I wonder if I can have that when he goes?

And here's another one -

Two final thoughts.... Considering the post about Joyce Meyer and Benny Hinn... If they get raptured, do you think I can keep their cars? ALSO, a word of advice to preachers, evangelists, and Religious Educators... People tend to respond much more readily to love than they do to fear... Rather preach the Gospel and LEAVE OUT the fear induced flakiness... I think it's the way of Christ....

Then again, I could be wrong!

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[Picture] A hilarious image that shows the POO that policiticians speak...

I thought this image from dvorak.org/blog was hilarious!!!

Read the caption on the back of the truck (oh, and what do you think of that personalised numberplate!?) poo pmpr...

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Preaching for profit - American televangelists face an economic review

Among those who are to be investigated are Joyce Meyer (who is very popular in South Africa), Creflo Dollar and Benny Hinn... [PS. what do you call Benny Hinn's hair style!? A Hin DOOO!

Personally I am amazed that it has taken so long for them to come under public scrutiny! Rick Warren (the author of the best seller 'Purpose drive life') is a much better model than these folks. When he made millions of the rights and sales of his 'ministry' he negotiated to draw a sensible salary and gave the rest for HIV AIDS work and other independently directed ministries! Now, that's courage (I'm not sure if I could do that - and by that I mean, write a best selling book, AND give the lion's share of the profits away. But heck, I hope I could!)

So, here's the story about the investigation... Sometimes good people loose their way... I am sympathetic because I am prone to sin myself...

It comes from one of my favourite blogs:

Acting on tips about preachers who ride in Rolls Royces and have purportedly paid $30,000 for a conference table, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee said Tuesday he?s investigating the finances of six well-known TV ministers.

No one noticed the lifetyles of the rich and famous bible-thumpers?

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa said those under scrutiny include faith healer Benny Hinn, Georgia megachurch pastor Creflo Dollar and one of the nation?s best known female preachers, Joyce Meyer.

Grassley sent letters to the half-dozen Christian media ministries earlier this week requesting answers by Dec. 6 about their expenses, executive compensation and amenities, including use of fancy cars and private jets.

"I don't want to conclude that there's a problem, but I have an obligation to donors and the taxpayers to find out more. People who donated should have their money spent as intended and in adherence with the tax code."

Because the groups have tax status as churches, they are not required to file tax forms open to public inspection.

The critical question is - when will their followers quit being gullible and foolish. Or is that a necessary prerequisite to being a traditional American Christian?

Mmmmm... Kind of makes one wonder whether they are reporting false profits, or if they are just false prophets!?

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

16 Tombstones that make you go hhmmmm.... [Pictures]

Here's a link to 16 of the funniest (and saddest) tombstones I have ever seen.

Click here to see all 16 of them

I need to find something interesting to put on mine (and write it into my will!)

Any suggestions?

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Silence is golden... BUT, not when you are a blogger.

I have been in Durban for meetings, and then today had a day full of meetings in Johannesburg (all to do with the NEW Seth Mokotimi Methodist Seminary we are building in Pietermaritzburg).

Tomorrow I shall catch up on my office work (after a morning meeting in JHB), return the 10 zillion phone calls and emails that are waiting for me, and post a few things that I have been thinking about to this blog.

This morning I recorded three more episodes for my radio program 'The Ministry and me' - I made MP3 copies on my voice recorder. I just want to see what the quality is like and then I shall post them here for those who cannot get Radio pulpit on either their cellphones or the internet.

Thanks to everyone who has been checking in on the blog!

Please could I ask to offer thanks in your daily prayers for the gift of the life of my little miracle son Liam - he turns 1 year old on the 16th of November!

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

Invention Of the Year: The iPhone

The thing is hard to type on. It's too slow. It's too big. It doesn't have instant messaging. It's too expensive...or cheap. It doesn't support my work e-mail. It's locked to AT&T. Steve Jobs secretly hates puppies.

YET, time gives you 5 reasons why it is the invention of the year....I agree! And, I don't even own one! How I wish I did!

Anyone out there willing to 'donate' one for research purposes?

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[Pic] See the knife in Jake White's back...

I'm off to Durban for some meetings at the University of Kwazulu Natal. Let me say right at the outset that it is great to be a Stormers supporter in Sharks country... [wiki links inserted for non-South African readers]. I'm fairly certain that this is the one occasion on which God doesn't mind me harboring secret feelings of superiority... I'm sure God feels the same (after all, God is also a Stormers fan! Want proof? Well, let's do the literalist test... Please read your bible from cover to cover and see if the words 'Shark' or 'Bluebull', or even the current champions 'Cheetah', appear in there... Back already? So what's the verdict?! Not there are they!! However, did you notice the word 'Storm' numerous times!? Yup, just goes to show who God supports, that's why he snuck their name in there plenty times!) Anyway enough of God's team the Stormers...

[PS. if you're looking for a HILARIOUS take on God and Sports, please read Stephen Colbert's book "I am America, and so can you!" I read it on Friday night - it is offensive in more ways than I've had hidings from my dad for taunting the neighbors dogs! But, I laughed, and that is good.]

Now back to Rugby...

I am always intrigued by those 'sports clothing and accessory' stores in the airport departures lounge (here in South Africa at least). Seeing the Springbok merchandise one sale got me thinking about the world cup, the people associated with it, and the money that is being made (and not being made) - there's a lot to be won and lost around the sport of Rugby at the moment. And, wherever there is money and power there is sure to be some controversy.

So, there, right in the centre of it all, you have a South African icon, Jake White, sticking it to the man!! Good on you Jake!

No, please understand that I am not opposed to transformation in Sport - but, sport is sport! Have you ever considered what the AIM of team sports are? The AIM is to construct a team of persons that are so good at their GAME that no other team can beat them... That's the aim... You choose the BEST people to put into the team in order to achieve that aim... IT'S A GAME!

By my simple little mind the answer is development, not quotas. We should be developing better 'black' rugby players at school to feed our national teams in years to come, and let me add we should also be developing better white soccer players to feed our almost entirely black soccer teams in years to come... It's about being the best - that's why its a GAME!!!

Anyway, Jake stuck to his guns, refused interference from the politicians, and it came at a personal cost. He called the nonsense of the SARFU Rugby bosses for what it was, and still had the courage, determination, skill and single mindedness to help us win the World Cup.

Then, he chose to stick it to the politically entwined bosses by walking away from a very lucrative coaching job, which I am fairly sure he would have had to be considered for if he had applied, after all he has just lead us to victory. Public sentiment would at least have counted for something...

In all seriousness, I am quite certain that the truth of the conflict between Jake White and SARFU is somewhere in between what each of them is saying.

However, it did just remind me of two things:

First, that what Paul tells us in Colossians 3:23-24,

23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
Not that I am suggesting that Jake White was doing anything for the Lord - however, I am saying that in general it is wise to do Godly things, for God's glory, not seeking any other reward except God's 'well done'. That way you will receive what God wishes to bless you with, regardless of what the rest of the world does.

Second, I was reminded that the real world is quite a cut throat place! Even sport is not a safe place anymore - it CERTAINLY is not fun and games! It is politics and money...

Here's to you Jake!

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A poignant review - Gay and Lesbian film on the interpretation of Scripture.

I thought this was quite an interesting review of the film "For the Bible tells me so".

Thanks for posting the link John (see a link to John's blog on the right hand side of this post).

For the Bible Tells Me So - A Review
By Pastor Bob Cornwall

Who would have thought that the consecration of a bishop in New Hampshire of all places would send a fissure though the global church - not just the Anglican Church, but the church as a whole. But the consecration of an openly gay man has done just that, laying bare the divisions over sexuality that permeates the Christian Community. The Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire has become the symbol of our unease with our sexuality and its place in the church.

I just finished viewing a screener copy of Daniel Karslake's important and surely controversial documentary, For the Bible Tells Me So. I watched it in preparation for my participation in a panel discussion after a screening of the film at the Santa Barbara LGBTQ Film Festival. I've known about the film since before its creation, for my friend Rev. Steve Kindle, who is featured in the film, was part of the origins of the idea. I've waited some time to see it and it was worth the wait.

The film begins with Anita Bryant, back in the 1970s denouncing the "gay agenda." Interspersed through the film are angry denouncements of homosexuality on the part of Christians, like Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Dobson, and the ubiquitous folk from Topeka's Westborough Baptist Church.

But that is not the essence of the film. Instead it is the stories of real families who struggle with their children's sexual identity and their own religious formation. Five families are interviewed - including the family of Bishop Robinson, whose own spiritual foundations are not Episcopal, but Disciples of Christ. His parents still members of the same Kentucky Disciple church that he grew up in share their pride in their son and the journey they took to embrace him as he is, despite their earlier formation. Another famous family is that of former Congressman Richard Gephardt, whose daughter Chrissie is a lesbian. Some of the stories, like those of the Gephardts and the Robinsons are happy, but not all are. Mary Lou Wallner tells the story of her estrangement from her lesbian daughter Anna, largely on the basis of her faith formation and understanding of the Bible - an understanding she got largely from Focus on the Family. That story ends tragically in the suicide death of her daughter. But out of that tragedy came hope, for Mary Lou began to study and found that her previous understandings had been wrong. Now she speaks out on behalf of the gay and lesbian community. There is another family that is conflicted - they love their daughter and welcome her, but they can't accept who she is. That's a work in progress. Finally there's the story of Jake Reitan, a young gay man who grew up in a solid - Lutheran - Christian family. It took time for his family to embrace him as he is, but in the long run they became advocates, standing with him as Soul Force demonstrated at the Focus on the Family headquarters.

The powerful statement these stories make is that this is a personal issue. Whatever your views of homosexuality or of the Bible, things change when it affects your family. How you read the Bible is influenced by your own experiences. That is true of me ? I'm a graduate of a leading evangelical seminary, whose president is featured in the film (unfortunately affirming traditional interpretations of these texts that excluded), but when my brother came out, things changed. Our hang up is with sex, but when we realize that this is my brother, or my sister, or my son or my daughter, what do we do? Dick Gephardt says it well - when Chrissie came out, fearing that she might be disowned, he declared a parent?s unconditional love. Love won out. As Mel White put it: "Once they realize who we are up close and personal that fear goes away."

The film deals with the families, but it also deals with the texts. A series of speakers, ranging from Mel White, Peter Gomes, Desmond Tutu to Rabbi Stephen Greenberg, Disciples pastors Larry Keene and Steve Kindle, and an American Baptist woman pastor Sandra Sparks. Each of these speakers takes on our cultural presuppositions, formed by our faith traditions, and the Biblical texts - of which there are only about six, few of which even apply today in any real way. We hear that Leviticus declares a man lying with a man to be an abomination, but then it also says the same about eating shrimp. As Larry Keene, a Disciple pastor and former Pepperdine professor points out, the question isn?t so much what the Bible seems to say, but how we read it and use it today.

At the heart of the debate is the question of choice - is it a choice or not? The film takes on this question creatively, through the use of a brief, at times humorous, but pointed cartoon. This piece sits in the middle of the film, providing both comic relief and movement forward on the discussion. And as most reputable science states, this isn't a choice, it is one?s identity. If so, then we must ask: what next for our society?

We live at a time when the vast numbers of people are biblically illiterate and read the Bible in bits and pieces, influenced largely by their own upbringing. This reading is combined with great amounts of fear. It is true that our society's greatest fear is of male homosexuals ? a fear of a feminization of a man. To be gay is to be - in the eyes of many - feminine. Gay men, such as White and Robinson, make it clear that this isn't true. But the fear is still there, and it's a fear we must address. Our fear leads us to plead with gays and lesbians to stay in the closet, but as Mel White points out, the "closet is a place of death." Young gays, feeling suppressed and forced into a closet, with no one to talk with, too often and very tragically, take their own lives. And why? Because our society is permeated by fear of the other and formed by outmoded interpretations of the Bible.

Is this film biased? Of course it is. It is a strongly stated, but not in your face, statement of the dignity and equality and the humanity of our gay and lesbian friends, neighbors, and family members. It is a film that must be seen. At this point it is in fairly restricted distribution, but hopefully this will change - for the church must change so that the world might change.

If the film begins (with the exception of the Anita Bryant outburst) with an introduction of the Robinson family, it appropriately ends with his joyous and yes controversial consecration as Bishop of New Hampshire. The world will never be the same - and that's a good thing.

An interesting review. I can't wait to see this movie.

Sadly though, I fear that we have been so polarised in this discussion that we tend to approach the issue, rather than each other, from our points of conviction.

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Saturday, November 03, 2007

Relationship advice - how to have a 'productive' argument!

This is quite a sensible post. I often say to couples that I preparing for marriage:

1. Don't be afraid of healthy conflict! Think about it, why do people 'fight'? It is usually because they love one another and something is stopping them from loving one another freely! So, they need to find a way to overcome that.

2. People who have no conflict whatsoever are either not honest with themselves, or their partner, or they are lying... We all disagree with our loved one's from time to time. Why? Because they're different from us! That's what attracted us to them in the first place!

So, here's some good advice for having a constructive (not a hurtful and destructive) disagreement. I hope it helps you, I sure pray that I'll remember these points next time Megie and I disagree! Maybe I'll print them out and laminate them to stick them on the fridge... Nope, she may just throw them at me! Ha ha!

Differences of opinion are normal and healthy in adult relationships and learning to compromise is a skill required in many areas of life. You might want to print out this page and pin it to your notice board to remind you both whenever a disagreement arises.

Before trying this exercise it's worth having a look at the Guidelines for exercises.

1. Stick to the issue in hand - don't bring up previous misdemeanors or other things you've been meaning to say.

2. Don't argue over trivia - for example, arguing whether it was Monday or Tuesday that you forgot the milk. The issue is you forgot, not which day it was.

3. Start sentences with "I" - for example, "I felt annoyed when you..." rather than "You annoyed me when..." And "I would like to go out more often," not "We should go out more often."

4. Don't use absolutes - never say "never", "always", "should" or "shouldn't". They're irritating and often inaccurate. For example, "You never wash up" will almost certainly get a response of "What about when...?"

5. Let your opinions stand on their own merits - don't be tempted to bring in other people's opinions.

6. Try to stay sitting down, relax your muscles and don't forget to breathe - it's much easier to stay calm if you're not pacing around the room.

7. Don't start throwing abuse around - calling your partner lazy, fat or paranoid isn't going to convince them to see your point of view.

8. Be aware of your feelings and tell your partner these as well - saying "I'm scared you don't love me anymore" is likely to get a better response than "You don't act like you love me."

9. Try not to block the conversation - don't interrupt, launch into a monologue or expect them to be a mind-reader.

10. Agree to a code word for time out - if one or both of you feels you're getting overheated it's best to take some time away from each other to calm down before going back to the disagreement.

Remember, who wins the argument is irrelevant if your relationship loses something. Always try to confront the issue - not each other.

Let me know if you have any other marriage tips!

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An example of A GREAT powerpoint presentation!

Here's an example of a GREAT powerpoint presentation (and of course the presenter is using an Apple! Yeah!)

It's a Youtube Video, so simply click it and let it load...

What do you think? Of course this is not the kind of presentation style that one could use for every occasion (or Church service). That would be exhausting, plus it may not suit all genre's and styles of content.

PS. This also happens to be an incredible take on identity (a subject that interests me a great deal! I particularly like what Dick [sic] says about his identity at around 3:22... What others say about us is often truer than what we say about ourselves!) Anyway, watch the movie - it is a great example of a superb presentation!

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The best powerpoint tips I've ever heard! How to get your point across powerfully!

'Rich media' has become such an integral part of most Church services. Most middle class Churches now own (and use, and I employ the 'verb' use with a measure of liberal grace) a computer and a data projector.

I enjoy images, verbal images are more exciting that visuals by my standards... I am of the mind that it takes a lot more skill to carefully and effectively communicate a verbal image than simply slapping a 30 second video clip or pithy image on powerpoint. However, there are those who do the latter very well! So please hear me, I have NOTHING against good presentations, I just think that it can detract from the message rather than aid it.

One of the very best worship experiences I have ever had was at the Hillsong conference in the Sydney Olympic stadium... delirious? were leading a worship session and they displayed incredible skill and artistic insight in how they used their media technology!

In short, I have found that in most Churches (and particularly in sermons) we tend to allow our use of 'rich media' (such as video, pictures, and sound bites) to be a distraction to the message rather than an aid! I have been guilty of this more than once.

One of my favourite sites to check in on from time to time is missinglink - the owner Rich also has a magnificent flickr page, and maintains joblog. missinglink is a media company that helps boring corporate types, presenters, public speakers, and a host of other communicators to get their message across!

I wish I had the money to spend a bit of time learning from these guys! I do believe that we have an incredible message to share (the message of the love and mercy of Christ, and our purpose to encourage one another to develop a community of justice, love, and grace for all people)! It would be great to have the skill to effectively communicate that message and inspire others to be a part of the work of bringing healing and transformation to the world!

As I point out below, I actually came across Rich and the missinglink when I was looking for some tips on putting together, and delivering, effective powerpoint presentations. On their site they have a 1 minute master class on powerpoint presentations!

Here it is:

Welcome to Missing Link's presentation master class, the entire programme lasts about 1-minute.

You will be tested, so pay attention.

Rule 1: Make sure you enjoy your presentation more than your audience does, no matter how detailed or serious the content.
Rule 2: Serious is fine. Boring is not.
Rule 3: Most people prefer to listen to words, and see pictures. Be nice to those people.
Rule 4: You are the presentation. Prepare for every preso under the assumption that your visual aids wont work. If you need slides only to enhance your message, you'll design them more efficiently.
Rule 5: Presentation is storytelling, stories are fun, knock yourself out.

There's more, but if you can get these right, you're well on your way. Of course, if you really do want more info feel free to download and read our Attention Spam tutorial, or simply follow the links on the right hand side, I'll update them often, so check back, or subscribe to our RSS feed.

Class dismissed...!

Please, Please, Please, Please, pay attention to Rules 1, 3 and 5!!!!!!!! It hurts me when I go to Church and encounter 'death by side screen'! I love the "attention spam tutorial" - it is very effective!

Thanks Rich.

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What is the worst way to die? A strange, and insightful, article.

I found this very interesting article on how stuff works, I thought it was quite interesting, although somewhat morbid!

Anna Gosline's recent article in New Scientist, entitled "How Does It Feel To Die?" got our hearts pumping here at HowStuffWorks. Gosline interviewed experts to find out what it's like to drown, fall from a tall building and ride the electric chair, among other terrible ways to die. This got us to thinking: Is there a worst way to die?

Buddhist monk burning alive
Courtesy Keystone/Getty Images
Immolation is one of the most painful ways to die -- which makes this Buddhist monk's protest of the Vietnam War by publicly burning himself to death all the more significant.

As it turns out, determining which mode of death is the worst way to go is subjective. There are impromptu polls on sites around the Internet (burning has a high ranking). But there's no consensus among professionals like physicians or funeral directors about which method is the least desirable way to exit this mortal coil. A person's fears may factor into his own personal worst way to die. The thought of falling to one's death from a tall building, for example, would probably scare the daylights out of someone who is afraid of heights, but wouldn't qualify as the worst death for someone else.

Awareness of the type of death and fear of the unknown can also make one kind of death more grisly than another. Dying in a plane crash is one example: The time between the airplane beginning its rapid descent and the moment of impact is more than long enough to generate terror. What's worse, depending on the circumstances, the passengers may remain conscious during the entire process. The plane is literally -- and unstoppably -- carrying its passengers to their probable deaths, and of this they are all totally aware.

With most forms of death, unconsciousness meets the victim before the grim reaper does, thus releasing the dying person from the fear that grips him. But the moments before death can be fraught with fear and pain.

A physician we interviewed recounts the story of a laborer in Africa who worked around vats of sulfuric acid -- one of the most caustic forms of acid. The man fell in one day. He quickly leapt out, but was covered in sulfuric acid, which immediately began to burn him chemically. In a panic and excruciating pain, the man ran outside. By the time his coworkers caught up to him, the man had essentially dissolved.

The acid burned the man to death, searing through skin, cauterizing blood vessels, and eating through organs until he died. The pain would be unbearable, and the circumstances irreversible. This is unquestionably a really bad way to die.

But what is it about stories like this? Why is it that on some primal level we feel the urge to imagine the man running madly about as his tissue fell away from his bones? Why do articles like Gosline's become so popular? In other words, why do we think about death? Read on to find out about an entire field of study dedicated to exploring death.

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What to do on the internet on a quiet and boring Saturday. A few tips for your browsing pleasure.

The internet is a wonderfully entertaining place to spend a few quiet minutes (hours, whatever the case may be).

I have had quite a busy morning with a meeting, and then a wedding (to Justin and Joy-Anne Lee whose wedding I did at the wonderful Rosebank Union Church in Sandton / Bryanston today - it was truly a lovely event, in a magnificent setting!)

However, I am home now, Courtney is playing outside with some friends, Megie is putting Liam off to sleep. So, I have a few minutes to check my favourite websites. I thought I would put a quick post up to tell you how I do my browsing, and what sites I check out regularly.

How do you get the best out of your precious time on the net?

1. Use an RSS reader. I use the RSS reader built into Mac OS Mail (in Leopard) to check on my favourite websites. With an RSS reader you can do two things. First, the reader will automatically update as soon as someone updates their website. Second, you don't need to visit the actual website in your browser to see the updates (you can simply scan the headings in the reader and only click on the one's that interest you). Most readers will not only load the updated text but also 'rich content', like Videos, MP3's and images.

2. First check the sites you visit most often. I'll tell you what sites I visit most often below. However, if your time is limited it is a good idea to visit the sites you like first. Then, if you still have some time left you can check out other sites that may interest you.

3. Make use of community driven listing sites. There are many sites out there like digg.com where the community votes for (or diggs) blog posts so that you can instantly tell what is popular or interesting.

So, that's how I use the internet when I have just a few minutes (or a lazy hour) and what to find out what's going on out there.

Which sites do I check regularly, or subscribe to via RSS:

1. engadget - technology, gadgets, and other geek news.
2. Mail & Guardian - an independent South African newspaper (I like their honest and courageous approach to tackling tough issues).
3. Sojourners - a Christian site with daily scripture readings, content, and articles related to issues of faith and justice, faith and politics etc. The blog is called "God's politics"
4. jkontherun - ANOTHER gadget site, specifically for those of us who use PDA's, microPC's, palmtops of sorts, and various cell phone driver technologies.
5. Amatomu.com (religion) - I read the Mail & Guardian's listing of 'religion' blogs (that helps me to follow up on Wessel, Pete, Sivin, Stephen, Jenny, Sharky etc. please see links on the right of this blog to go to their blogs)
6. Wired - an alternative look at culture, technology, and society in general.
7. Boingboing - there's no real way to describe this one....
8. digg - a social networking site where you can vote for posts by other people. Check out the 'offbeat' stories section.
9. joblog - these great guys post some interesting things (warning there is often adult content on this site such a explicit language etc.) I do, however, like their design business (I stumbled upon them from advice they gave about the use of powerpoint).
10. BBC News - say no more.
11. New York Times - same here...
12. MacCentral news - Again, nothing needs to be said here...
13. how stuff works - quite an interesting site, often with insights on how things work!

So, I hope that offers some insight and perhaps a bit of help!

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Friday, November 02, 2007

What the world really looks like! It's all a matter of perspective

In my first New Testament lesson of each year at the University I use a simple illustration to help the students understand why we need to study the bible, and particularly why we need to find tools to help us understand the bias with which we read the text.  For example, if I were to ask you, what God's gender is, most people would say 'Male' because the Bible speaks of the first person of the Trinity as 'Father', but if I ask you what race God is, many would say that God is a caucasian (white) person.  However, there is no evidence in scripture that God is 'white', or in fact even male!  The fact that the Biblical writers refer to the first person of the Trinity as Father has much more to do with their culture (and the role and respect accorded to fathers) than it does with God's gender!  Yet, because of the dominance of western perspectives on the text we just assume such approaches, as male dominance, and race bias, uncritically.

So, let me ask you, what is the image below a representation of?  No, it is not a map of the world.  Rather, it is a North American / European view of the world, i.e., it is Eurocentric.  It emphasises the size of Europe and North America, presenting them as larger than Africa and South America.
However, this is what the land mass of the world actually looks like (see the map below)!  Look how small Europe and North America are actually in comparison to Africa and South America (the Peters Projection is a representation of 'actual land mass' of the continents).  Amazingly this map is referred to as a 'distorted map', even though it is a more accurate representation of the land mass of the world...  Even reality does not always change perspectives.

Bias is powerful!  We need to be aware of it, lest we put words into God's mouth.  A few months ago I posted a little guide for exegesis (first written by Tim Attwell, edited by myself):  

Basic principles of Exegesis for preachers and teachers 2007.pdf

Perhaps it will be of some use to you.

Today, however, I found another representation that could change the way we see the world.  It is a map that shows what the world would look like if we viewed it from the perspective of population - so the larger the 'land mass' the larger the population of that area of the world...  It is quite interesting!

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[Pic] It's amazing when you just run into a HUMBLE international sports star... There he was at my daughter's school!

This afternoon I nipped out to fetch my 8 year old daughter from her school here in Pretoria.  When I arrived I parked next to a very nice convertible Audi with the registration LR-05 GP.  There was a huge commotion on the go among the kids... I wondered what was happening, but thought nothing of it... Then suddenly there was Lucas Radebe!

He had come to fetch his niece from school.  Can you imagine the conversation that led to him fetching his niece!?  I'm sure that his grandmother, or mother, was involved somewhere along the lines!  ha ha.  "Lucas, your aunty wants you to fetch your cousin from school on Friday afternoon".  "But, gran, I am a very busy and important person!", "no Lucas, you are my grandson, so be there at 3pm!  Don't be late!"

There is something very humbling about being around one's family!  I often feel that dichotomy in my own life.  In some circles I am treated quite differently to how my mom treats me!  I think we all need a bit of reminding that we should "not think more highly of [ourselves] than we ought to, but in humility consider others better than yourself" (Phil 2:3-5).

Anyway, Lucas Radebe was a nice guy.  He was polite and patient
 with hundreds of kids swarming around him - he even took the time to sign  a piece of paper for my 8 year old daughter.
Now I know why the Leeds band Kaiser Chiefs decided to name their band after his team when he was in the UK.

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Was John Wesley "Emergent"? - an interesting thought!

My friend Jenny Sprong posted a link to the following very interesting article to a list for Methodist ministers.

I think the notion has quite a bit of merit... Although, one should always take care in trying to fit contemporary categories to persons, or approaches, from bygone eras!

Andrew Jones writes, ?The emerging church might well be a protest (Don Carson) but it might also be a corrective measure to the excesses and imbalances of the reformation and the Enlightenment. Let the Reformation continue.?

Writing in the Advent/Christmas 2007-2008 issue of the Church of the Nazarene?s Preaching Magazine, Hal Knight (no relation), Professor of Wesleyan Studies at St. Paul?s School of Theology in Kansas City, writes about ?John Wesley and the Emerging Church.? Keith Drury has helpfully summarized Knight?s points of comparison in this nifty table (HT).

Graduate student and research assistant/reader-grader Kalev Hinrich summarizes Knight?s article: ?John Wesley has been turned into a leading Emergent, postmodern theologian who not only endorses Generous Orthodoxy from his grave, but was its leading founder without knowing it.?

Hinrich offers a pretty lengthy critique, concluding: ?In short, Wesley becomes a gracious liberal theologian ? but given the context of [Knight?s] argument, so does the Emergent Church and postmodernism. The grand conclusion: The postmodernism and the Emergent Church are basically new forms of liberal modernity, and nothing could be further from the truth.?

Both the original article and Hinrich?s response are interesting reads.

Please follow the links in the article to get the meat of the post... I think it is quite sound and sensible!

What do you think?

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One liner of the day - striving to be perfect

This one's from Steven Wright, the sanguine American comedian -

In school they told me practice makes perfect... They also told me nobody's perfect, so I stopped practicing...
Makes sense... A blow to euclidean logic....

Check out these pictures of things found in Jail library books

This post comes from one of my favourite blogs on the web boingboing:

umbled Pile is a volunteer for the Jail Library Group, which provides reading materials to the residents of jails in Dane County, Wisconsin. Occasionally, he comes across notes and sketches placed between the pages of the books. He scans these and posts them to his Flickr site.

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Pre-Order: Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Dom Bede Griffiths

This is an advertisement, so please feel free to skip it.

My new book is available for pre-publication orders. It is currently with the Publishers. I should have a few copies in hand in the next two to three weeks. The pre-publication price is R80 per copy. After that it will be selling for R98. So please your order early to get the discount rate. Simply drop me an email (see the link on the right), or leave a comment.

Here's the blurb for the book:

Karl Rahner wrote that the "...Christian of the future will be a mystic or he will not exist at all". More and more Christians, and Christian theologians, are starting to recognise how important a lived experience of the mystery of Jesus Christ is in finding true life, and in doing sound theology. Bede Griffiths, a Benedictine Monk who was educated at Oxford, but spent most of his life adapting his Christian faith to the culture and philosophy of India, came to embody the depth and riches of mystical spirituality in his life and teaching. His integrated approach to spiritual living has helped many people to discover, and rediscover, the rich experience of being truly and fully alive in Christ. This book examines the elements that made Fr Bede's spirituality so significant by discussing his understanding of the Person, nature, and work of Christ. Fr Bede's Christology is informed by such varied sources as the Catholic Christian tradition, Indian philosophy, Hindu religion, quantum physics, transpersonal psychology, micro-biology, and the perennial philosophy. This book is a valuable resource for persons who seek to deepen their relationship with God and God?s creation. It also has a great deal to offer the more serious theological mind through the discussions on experiential theological methodologies and a challenging new vocabulary that can enrich our understanding of the doctrine of Christ.
PS. Huge props to my friend Monty in Canada who took the photograph of Spray Lakes that is on the cover of the book. To see his photos go to Monty's Flickr page here. And, of course sincere thanks to Manfred Jung who did the post-production for this book! Manfred is a star, and AcadSA are a great publisher for anyone like me who is just starting out... If you have some thoughts, resources, and ideas, why not get them out there. As I say to my students all the time "The difference between those who write and those who don't is that those who write DO..."

I have long since come to discover that what I may consider a simple, plain, boring idea may be quite inspiring and challenging to others!

I would particularly encourage Southern Africans to write! We need to get the thoughts, concepts, ideals, and even failings and struggles, of Africans into print!

There are two more books on the way this year, so watch this space! Yes, insomnia... Do a search on this blog... It will all be much clearer... I write... I'll sleep in the next life...

Amazingly, I am fairly certain that my LACK of sleep (which causes me to write), will HELP OTHERS TO FALL ASLEEP (because of what I've written!) Ha ha!!!

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